Hardfolk. That’s how Bray-based band The Cujo Family have described the sound on their new album, Stories Of Ruin. Following a well-received eponymous début, this latest offering was recorded in Bow Lane Studios with producer Liam Mulvaney at the helm and was backed by a successful :fund:it campaign.
Opening with the aggressive growl of Dog Gone Crazy, it’s easy to hear how much the band have grown sonically. Their playing is tighter, the songs more textured; flourishes of blues, trad and country create a diverse sound not at all dissimilar to The Band. Mary Browne and Cage Rattler branch off into a very different vein however, capturing the band’s more soulful side, the latter employing understated brass and a distinctly honky-tonk sounding piano.
Water Into Wine has an unmistakeably maritime feel to it, the rousing chorus descending into sea-shanty territory, whilst One Bright Morning has all the qualities of an outlaw murder ballad, an attribute which seems to permeate throughout the entire album; lines such as “I got myself a shotgun and I used it on my mistress” in penultimate track, Alozaina, driving home their tongue-in-cheek brand of Americana. Fiddles and banjos create an eclectic trad-folk atmosphere on North Of The Knowing, another song which wouldn’t seem at all out of place on a Townes Van Zandt album.
This blood-soaked theme continues with Killing Song, a soldier’s marching call driven by a building, pulsating drum which fades out into the sombre lament of Green Trees. Melancholy fiddles and gentle acoustic guitars accompany the yearning, heartbroken narrative, whilst rustic vocal harmonies wrap themselves around mournful lyrics such as “Oh Lord, it just ain’t fair, why’d you take her away from here?” The tempo of the album doesn’t lull for long though, as Paris, The Hate In My Heart opens boldly with blistering horns. The mood is triumphant and flirting at times with proper celtic-punk spirit.
That raucous energy is maintained on the short, bluegrass-esque, You Choked, which namechecks numerous places in Dublin such as Camden Street and St. James’s Gate, plucking us out of the dust-bowl plains of America’s deep South and reminding us exactly where this band are from. Clocking in at seven and a half minutes long, closing track God In A Tree is the longest on the album, an interesting—but certainly not poor—decision. In sharp contrast to the album’s opener, this song is subdued and intricate; an abstract, almost ethereal encounter with the death of a bird which brings the album to a mellow, impeccable finish.
What The Cujo Family have done with Stories Of Ruin is create a wonderfully diverse collection of music that still manages to behave like a cohesive piece of art. It marks a step in the right direction for the band; they’ve honed their sound and developed lyrically. Though their last album received a welcome reception, the band have not squandered these intermediary two years. Stories Of Ruin picks up where The Cujo Family left off, and does so in good style—it really is a triumph.
To celebrate the release of Stories Of Ruin, The Cujo Family will be playing a launch gig on the 29th June at The Sugar Club. Support will come from two excellent acts, The Eskies and Dylan Walshe, with tickets priced at just €12 from Tickets.ie. More live dates include a handful of festival appearances including Knockanstockan, Electric Picnic, and the brilliant (and free!) Jack Of Diamonds Rhythm & Roots Festival in Dublin so make sure to catch them live as soon as you can.
Stories Of Ruin will be released on the 29th to coincide with the launch, and will be available for digital download and physically from all good record stores. If you need your fix from The Cujo Family in the meantime however, you can always head on over to their Bandcamp where you can download their début album for free!