A friend turned me on to Von Strantz this fall. She invited me to a show in Goshen, enticing me by describing the band’s music as soulful folk. I was intrigued but far from prepared for what this group had to offer.
Their performance blew me away. I was fortunate enough to see the whole band play (Von Strantz, from Mishawaka, describes themselves as “a community of storytellers, an ebb and flow of different musicians,” i.e. sometimes they perform as a seven piece, or a three piece, or sometimes it’s just founder Jess Strantz), and I was treated to one of the best live shows I’ve seen since moving to Indiana.
That night, I bought the only recording the band had available, a self-titled four song album. While I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite capture the power and majesty of the live performance I’d just seen. Needless to say, I was eager for another release, and last weekend my wish came true.
“Narratives Chapter I: Troubled Souls” delivers where the self-titled fell short. All four songs have a very intimate feel, and when the group wants to unleash its folky power, it blares through the speaker.
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Just listen to the title track. It opens with a few slow-strummed acoustic chords, Strantz’ haunting voice and hushed vocal harmonies. “We lie down, get up, we come and go,” sings Strantz just before she strikes a few ghost notes, queing the rest of the band to unleash its fury in a blast of mandolin, violin and cello.
It’s chilling. It’s uplifting. It sets the mind racing and the feet moving. First listen brought to mind the Mumford & Sons first album. It’s simultaneously melancholy and uplifting, bold but understated.
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Words can’t really do this record justice, so I’ll wrap this up by saying “Troubled Souls” is the best Americana album I’ve heard since Adrienne Frailey’s “I Would Be The Sky.” Furthermore, I think it captures the full force of this great band.
Currently Von Strantz is out west, playing these songs to what are sure to be delighted audiences. Do yourself a favor and shell out the $1 (or more) for this album to hold you over until the band is back in Indiana and you can treat yourself to one of their live performances.