Coyote Grace,
Now Take Flight
(Mile After Mile, 2011)

Until I heard Now Take Flight, I had never understood the occasional reference to Crosby, Still & Nash (with or without Young) as a "folk" group. I could discern some faint sonic link to folk-lite bands in the Kingston Trio vein, but that never struck me as anything of consequence. Coyote Grace, a Seattle-based trio (comprising Joe Stevens, Ingrid Elizabeth and Michael Connolly), identifies itself -- or so one infers from the promotional literature -- as a folk or roots act, while its influences are manifestly CSN, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and the post-folk singer-songwriter generation, plus some pre-rock pop.

The songs are composed internally except for Bruce Springsteen's well-worn "I'm on Fire." One cut does sound like something that could have existed a century or more ago -- Joe Stevens's "Born Blind," presumably inspired by heart-tearing laments on that theme rendered by white and black songsters of a few generations ago (e.g., "Blind Girl," "Blind Pilgrim," "Blind Fiddler"). It's a fine and moving piece of writing, tied to a powerful vocal by Ingrid Elizabeth.

The press sheet informs me that Coyote Grace has opened for the Indigo Girls, a group whose routine identification as "folk" is even more perplexing to me. Next to the Girls, Grace is the New Lost City Ramblers, if only because its members play acoustic instruments such as banjo, fiddle, guitar and upright bass. But for that detail, though, this is not folk, if that matters to you. It matters to me only because my tastes are folk-oriented, but I hope I need not add that I'm not one who thinks valid music begins and ends with that genre signifier. There is nothing wrong with Grace's approach to songcraft if it's what you enjoy hearing.

Let me put it this way: If you're looking to be reminded of what the better 1970s pop singer-songwriters sounded like, and don't mind a splash of faux authenticity in the mix, Coyote Grace is for you.

music review by
Jerome Clark

25 August 2012

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