Yes, so perhaps “Band of the Week” has been discontinued, but at least we could still call this “Band of the Indefinite Time Period” if we wanted. Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. I’m just now getting into a band I’ve known about for a while but only based on one song.
That band is Texas quintet Fair To Midland, and that song is “Dance of the Manatee.” I heard it on the radio about two to three years ago, and it immediately caught my attention. However, much to my own personal shame, I inexplicably did not really check out much else of the band’s material.
I have redeemed myself however, and I can thank another song of theirs that I heard on the radio — “Musical Chairs.” This song also captivated me on the first listen, and I realized that since Fair To Midland was now 2/2 for me, I had better check them out. I sampled a few more songs on YouTube and decided it was time to purchase a CD. I got their major label debut from 2007, entitled Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True. I have immediately fallen in love with it, and I now have to seriously consider buying their recently-released album, Arrows and Anchors (“Musical Chairs” is on this album).
Fair To Midland is a different animal. I have trouble classifying them. I would call them a combination of art rock and progressive rock/metal, with a little bit of an indie-type sound thrown into the mix. Vocalist Darroh Sudderth has a truly unique voice and timbre, and his range is unbelievable (just check out the high-to-low vocal progression in the chorus of “Dance of the Manatee” to see what I’m talking about). At times the band has a very soft, keyboard-heavy sound (such as in the intros of “Kyla Cries Cologne” and “Walls of Jericho”), and at other times, thrashing guitars dominate (e.g., the beginnings of “Dance of the Manatee” and “Upgrade^Brigade”). The dynamics within the songs also change rapidly, which makes me use the word “progressive” when describing them.
It is this unique sound that has gotten me into Fair To Midland. I haven’t looked too much into the lyrics yet. For one — and this is one very small negative of the band, although not so much for me personally — the words are often hard to understand, especially when you first hear the songs (upon repeat listens I am deciphering more of the lyrics). Another lyrical trait is that they are VERY abstract and thus difficult to interpret. For example, this is the pre-chorus and chorus of “Dance of the Manatee”:
We marys had ourselves a ball,
Oh, yes we did,
We marys had ourselves a ball,
I must admit,
Hang us those limbs, hold no virtue,
Those told to hold: Project on my cue,
Until we fall.
If anyone has an interpretation for this, please let me know. All I know is that I love the way this band sounds, and that’s enough for me. It’s always a cool feeling when you discover a musical group that is awesomely talented but relatively unknown. That’s what I have here with Fair To Midland, so you should thank me for letting the secret out! In all seriousness though, most people will probably like at least some of what they hear; the band’s sound is eclectic enough to attract a plethora of different listeners.
Here are some other standout songs (besides the ones I already mentioned) to get you started:
- “April Fools and Eggmen” (could be my new favorite; the guitar fill right before the chorus is awesome)
- “Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes”
Fair To Midland is:
- Darroh Sudderth (vocals, banjo, mandolin, bass)
- Cliff Campbell (guitars)
- Brett Stowers (percussion, drums)
- Matt Langley (keys)
- Jon Dicken (bass)