Album Reviews

Willi Carlisle – Critterland – Album Review

On 26th January the latest album from Arkansas-based folk singer Willi Carlisle was released.   Critterland is a ten-song collection of folk songs with a bluegrass lilt to some, and definitely not a mainstream way of looking at life.

Whilst this album is essentially a folk album, mixing guitar – both finger and flat picked – harmonica, banjo, fiddle and many more great roots instruments, there is a more modern feel to it than someone not familiar with the folk scene would think.  With each song, Willi’s lyrics paint the scene beautifully, and the accompanying instruments help to increase the depth of the mood they have created.

Starting with the title track – Critterland – a song that says to the listener that it’s worth fighting for your family – even a messed-up one.  Whilst openly one of the two happiest/most upbeat numbers on the record, there is an underlying melancholy.  What’s common amongst most of the songs – Two-Headed Lamb and The Money Grows on Trees excluded – is even if the situation is not one everyone can empathise with, there are feelings we may all have had and needed to deal with at some time or other – be it loss of a loved one, or to be the one who decides our own fate.

Even though the album ends with a spoken-word seven-minute track, The Money Grows on Trees has that one thing that many mainstream acts seem to miss – and definitely did throughout the nineties and noughties – which is leaving you wanting more.  That last song is based on a “true story about crooked drug deals in the rural Ozarks” and has the effect – or at least did for this reviewer – of making you want to investigate how the changes to the American attitude to recreational drug use under Ronald Reagan changed rural America.

Whilst there are no songs on this album this reviewer dislikes, there are a couple which took more listens to eventually love.  The strongest – and most likely to become an earworm – are The Arrangements, A Higher Lonesome, and Jaybird.  The use of dulcimer and lap steel on Jaybird will make it hard for anyone not to tap along.  

If this sounds like a record you would like to investigate, I suggest making sure your first few listens are done with no distractions – and, if you can, with your eyes closed.  There are many levels to the songs, and it will help ensure you don’t miss too much.

About The Author

Show More
Back to top button
error: Content is protected !!