So the story goes, the person (Carl) who brought this album to my attention had come across it like this; while away on a camping trip far out in the wilderness at Daicey Pond at Baxter State Park in Maine, he meets a park ranger who records music with his friend under the name rural electric. They run their amps off of a generator since they’re too far off the grid to get electricity, hence the band’s name. They record and release an album on a practically non-existent local label in 2002 only to disappear back into the land of moose and conifers.
You imagine a band with a story like this being “discovered” years later, their album reissued and their status raised to the level of “lost classic” or something of that nature. In reality it seems unlikely that that scenario would play itself out but nonetheless rural electric is an act deserving of at least a little attention. Self-described as, “a guitar-wielding fuzz-folk combo.” I got this off their website which means at the least, that they are not SO rural as to not realize the pro’s of a band page on the internet. I wouldn’t describe the music so much as fuzz-folk as I would more of a straight up lo-fi college rock sound circa 1985. Don’t think that’s an insult though. The only thing that doesn’t really do it for me is a lack of consistency amongst the album’s 11 tracks. Aside from that these boys are capable of writing some really nice tunes.
The album opens with your life was too good, by no means a bad song but has that sound like someone got a little too happy over-dubbing with the 8-track, the result inevitably winds up sounding cluttered and busy. The second cut however, nicest house on the block is a beauty. Two guitars a little drone in the background great restrained solo towards the end of the track. To go back to the college rock sound reference, it conjures up some of R.E.M.’s slower moments or the Innocence Mission sans the female vocals.
Company town is like a cursory audio history of a once mighty mill town, fallen into decay and much later revitalized by a post-industrial economy. There’s a certain authenticity to the track that comes only from those who have seen it happen. On the grange a single banjo is plucked over some hastily played out of tune piano, a field recording of an auctioneer’s voice falls in and out of the mix.
With subject matter ranging from corn, to snow, to a mechanics work jacket, rural electric sing with an acute awareness of the landscape and the world they inhabit. What make them unique is that they have a decidedly indie-rock take on it in a land where some towns don’t even have names let alone any rock bands.