La Crosse natives (and sisters) Bethany and Jennifer, collectively known as The Ericksons, have just released their third full-length album, The Wild, which continues the folk and bluegrass legacy of their last two releases in a delicately rich manner.
“Gone Blind,” is the standout first track, with its strong, somber vocals, falling guitar melody, and melancholy drums. It acts as a kind of prologue to the album and introduces the undercurrent of loss that emanates throughout.
But loss is just one of the themes here. Recovery from and overcoming that loss is the broader message of The Wild. The last words from “Tail Lights,” the final track, are a fitting way to describe the album’s essence: “It has been a long night.” Taking these words into consideration, the record as a whole is like the cool, partly sunny morning that follows a long night
The songs that follow “Gone Blind” move the album forward in an almost story-like fashion. The slow rhythm and more joyful guitar strumming on “Little Bird” gives the song a comforting lullaby quality. “Where Do You Dwell” ups the hopeful tone with a winding guitar/slide guitar and a quick knee-slapping railroad rhythm reminiscent of classic folk songs.
“Six Feet Under,” probably the most outstanding track on The Wild, alternates between a simple strumming rhythm, a jolting flourish of chords, and a lamenting howl-like slide guitar. Along with the soulful harmony of the vocals, this song provokes a steady range of emotion.
The songs that follow seem to trail off from the storyesque structure and act more like footnotes or commentary to the previous songs. It would have been nice to have the whole album fit into an overall arc like the first six do.
But this is not to say these songs are of any less quality just because they don’t especially help the overall structure of what the album might’ve had. Each of these 11 songs furthers The Wild’s generous vocal, instrumental, and lyrical variety in a way that still makes this record so passionate and compelling. Anyone that thinks themselves lovers of folk, blues, bluegrass and old country western, will find The Ericksons’ latest a blessing.
The Ericksons will be playing a CD release show at The Root Note on February 9 at 8 p.m. Raleway opens.