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Rusty Bear - Source to Sea

  by Jon Rogers

published: 1 / 5 / 2012

Rusty Bear - Source to Sea
Label: Mollusc Records
Format: CD


Easy-on-the-ear, but often inventive folk rock from Leeds-based trio, Rusty Bear

You've no doubt heard of Grizzly Bear and Polar Bear, even Minus the Bear and now joining in the bear-naming fun are the Leeds-based trio Rusty Bear. What's with the obsession with bears in recent years? Aside from the animal reference Rusty Bear have little, musically, to do with those bands, playing a gentle 21st century folk music more akin to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and Noah & the Whale. Songwriter and guitarist Matthew Sturgess is the main man behind the band but teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Zebedee Budworth (great name) and guitarist Rory Mansfield and, apparently, took their name from a play on Rusty bière, a French beer. The initial recordings for what became 'Source to Sea' first took place in Sturgess' garden shed and garden in the summer 2009 but with more professional studio sessions taking place later on in a variety of locations. And 'Source to Sea' is really a deceptive record, hiding some nice little gems which can be missed at first if you're not paying close attention. The opening title track really sets the mood and pace for (most) of the ensuing album. Songs skip along nicely, all summery days in the sun and evenings in a beer garden. All gentleness, close harmonies, pleasant melodies and songs about the vagaries of love and heartache. All sung in restrained, almost hushed vocals. So far, so good but hardly anything radical or inventive and a musical genre that has been rather well mined of late. But wait. There's more going on than meets the eye. Certainly Rusty Bear may be swimming in an already crowded pond but they are worth taking note of. What Sturgess and co. do is a cut above and well worth investigating. Admittedly at times they do fall into the trap of tried and test folk conventions, as with 'If She' but it is all rather accomplished. More interesting too is that they do like to upset the rule book now and again. Most notably on the intriguing 'Tape Knot', seemingly a collage of twisted sounds and cut-ups. It might not stand up against the likes of composer John Cage but still quite radical in a folk setting. Not quite as challenging is the ensuing 'Dear George' which, at times, almost see the band, er, 'rock out'. The pace rises notably from the usual light skipping and a few power chords are dropped into the mix. For most of the time it is folky business as usual but it is done in a rather appealing way and one that subtly worms its way into your affections but it isn't afraid to throw in a few curved balls either. It's going to be interesting to sea (sic) what Rusty Bear do next.

Track Listing:-
1 Source to Sea
2 Hollow Bird
3 Russian Horse
4 Closer to God
5 Moth
6 Tape Knot
7 Dear George
8 Probo Koala
9 If She
10 Falling Stones
11 Postville, Iowa
12 Arc

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