Hillfolk Noir sizzle on splendid new album ‘Pop Songs for Elk’

Hillfolk‘Pop Songs for Elk’
Hillfolk Noir (self-released)
4 stars out of 5

Idaho trio Hillfolk Noir coined the phrase “junkerdash” to describe their music and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover this fantastic trio. Terrific new full-length “Pop Songs for Elk” is Hillfolk Noir’s fifth long player — but the first to pop up on my radar.

Hillfolk CDAfter repeated spins of the 12-track, 35-minute release, I’m eager to track down their earlier releases. And if “Hillfolk Noir Radio Hour,” “Skinny Mammy’s Revenge,” “What’s That Hat For” and “Diggin’ Songs” are half as good as this record, I’ll be a happy listener indeed.

Formed by the husband-and-wife team of Travis Ward (guitar/suitcase harmonica/vocals) and Alison Ward (musical saw/banjo/washboard/vocals), double bassist Mike Waite rounds out the Hillfolk Noir jug band lineup. Their intoxicating “junkerdash” sound mixes elements of old-time string band, punk, folk and country blues.

“Pop Songs for Elk” gets started with “North Idaho Zombie Rag” and Hillfolk Noir are off and running. Additional standouts include “Poor Man’s Love Song,” “Uncle Jake,” “Little Red Caboose,” “Shimmy,” “Little Sadie/Walkin’ Boss” and “My Train.” Closing track “Sniffing Glue Blues” misses the mark, but this album is a winner. Highly recommended. (Jeffrey Sisk)

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