Here's a question for you. What do you get if you combine top hats, folk music, and an unbridled energy that could make a band like Arcade Fire jealous? If you already familiar with Driven Serious, you would say Driven Serious. If you aren't, you might say The Decemberists. Driven Serious is collaboration of Rob Jones (ringmaster, vocals, guitarist), Tim Packer (bass/piano), Cathy Geldard (fiddle/piano) and Johnnie Walker (drums). They recently released The Importance of Being Serious, which is a 12-song album that is engaging, unusually inventive and contains a surplus of energy you don’t usually find in folk music.
Let’s be clear here. The music mixes genres like folk, rock, and even hints of country to make something uniquely their own. One thing for certain with this band is that if you dig string music you should enjoy them. Violins, fiddles and acoustic guitars permeate the album which create warm inviting tones that might make you dance a little jig if you're not careful. Jones has a unique voice and I imagine that listeners will have an ambivalent relationship with it. At first I found his voice to have qualities I normally don't enjoy but with repeated listens I felt like his voice started to fit the song pretty well indeed. Kind of reminded of what it was like when I first listened to Joanna Newsome.
The album starts with "Living For The Day" which contains acoustic guitar, upright bass, and fiddle - almost sounding a bit eastern before the bongos enter and all of a sudden it starts to feel a bit like rusted root (that’s not meant to be a bad thing). It has a lot of energy for an acoustic song and reminded me of the feeling you get when you listen to bluegrass. “Venus Star” is the longest song and one of the highlights on the album. The song was very heartfelt and the tones of the strings further accentuated the sincerity in Jones’ voice. On the other end of the spectrum “World of Fear” is the shortest song and has a more standard rock vibe as they forgo the acoustic guitars and replace them with electric. “Dharma Streams” creates space for the strings to breath and if you close your eyes you can imagine these guys feeling unencumbered while playing in a room together. The album closes with “Buddha in the Emptiness II” which contains some nice harmonies and piano playing; a solid way to close the album. The Importance of Being Serious is melting pot of genres and influences that create a concoction of music that I would recommend,
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