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Northern Trails - Through The Grain (Tintonic)

22 March 2024

Walking a fine line between old-school Americana and infectious 21st-century indie-rock, “Through The Grain” feels like a song you have been listening to for most of your life. A sure-fire classic. And that comes from more than just sounding like what has gone before; it is about a band understanding that past sound and musical history too, so that you can get under its sonic skin, as it were.

Northern Trails make some astute musical choices here, leaning into Per Larsson and Ulf Eklund’s more rootsy and bluegrass musical experience and echoing those classic hallmarks of American folk and country music—spiralling banjo picking, lush vocal harmonies, deft blends of acoustic dexterity and electric energy, not to mention a rising sense of the epic as the song passes from the understated to the anthemic.

And lyrically poetic too, there is real beauty found in the words here, something that is often overlooked by players who think that it is sonic deeds rather than astute words that really matter. I would advocate the notion that words are at least equally important as the music that carries them. At least.

As we head into the final minute or so of the song, we enter the realm of the classic, sky-searing guitar playout, a time of sonic salvos, swagger, grit, and grandeur all smartly woven together into the big finish. As they do this, Northern Trails make you think of epics like “Free Bird” or “Fall of the Peacemakers,” only holding back enough to avoid too much showboating and cliche, which is always the sign of a band that know what is really important.

Indie-folk? Americana? Alt-country? It doesn’t matter what you call Northern Trails; rejoice that they exist.

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