Frontier Ruckus - Enter the Kingdom

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2017-02-17

Frontier Ruckus is one of those bands that (at least up until now) could easily be placed into the ‘well, you have to see them live category’.  While the songs and performances have always been there, the band’s live magic has often been lost in translation on record.  As someone who has seen the band multiple times, there is something about the awesomeness of a lead ‘saw’ player (like he actually plays a saw with a violin bow!) that just doesn’t seem to translate without the visual.  But all of that is about to change, as the Detroit band’s forthcoming fifth album Enter the Kingdom reveals a band at the top of their game, primed and ready for discovery by a whole new audience.

Not unlike other acts of the recent folk revival (Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, etc.), Frontier Ruckus has spent their career amalgamating country, folk and roots music into an Alt-Rock package, giving the band’s throwback sound and image an immediate palpability with their mostly-millennial audience.  Over the course of a handful of indie releases, the band quickly moved beyond sheer novelty, refining their sound and focusing on their song-craft.  Enter the Kingdom is best viewed as the culmination of this journey, as it captures the balance of both production quality and that live feel, revealing the group’s dynamic range as well as the ‘hugeness’ of their stage show.

The album opens with the melancholic “Visit Me”, establishing that the trademark storytelling charm of singer Matthew Milia is still firmly in place.  Meanwhile, “27 dollars” shows off the banjo playing of David Jones (a reminder that not all band’s need to outgrow their folk roots) while sweeping strings invade the pensive “Gerunds”.   Over the course of Enter the Kingdom’s eleven tracks, the band carefully weaves one stirring story after another, culminating with the title track, a heartfelt epic of a song that perfectly encapsulates everything that Frontier Ruckus is capable of.

What is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Frontier Ruckus is the way they have steadfastly chosen to stay true to the DIY ethics they began with, eschewing many of the obvious studio entrapments that tend to entangle so many well-intentioned bands.  There are no ill-advised forays into glossy pop/rock here; there isn’t the slightest hint of auto-tune and they obviously have no interest in EDM embellishments.  Where so many of their peers have chosen to jump ship for more accessible waters, Frontier Ruckus have instead doubled-down on what it is that makes them unique, and in doing so have succeeded in adding a new level of orchestrated depth to their countrified folk tales, further cementing Enter the Kingdom with that oh-so-hard-to-find ‘timeless’ quality.

After years of paying their proverbial dues via countless mid-west tours and one solid release after another, Frontier Ruckus has finally put it all together on Enter the Kingdom; an album that truly displays this Indie/Folk act at their peak.  And assuming the Ruckus has never been on your radar, this is the perfect opportunity to jump on board.

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