Written by James Killen
Ranch\ House is self-described as a “Hill-Country-Indie-Folk-Rock outfit from San Antonio”. It is led by S. Brady Dietert, who writes most of the songs, sings lead, and plays guitar and harmonica with Dylan Ilseng on bass and Matt Carrell on drums. Dietert seems to start his songwriting by laying out a lively little rhythm riff that he uses as a canvas for his poetic imagery. The lyrics often take off in unexpected directions following strategically placed lines that take the listener on an interesting journey.
On “Book It to Sundown” the trio enlisted the help of a number of other artists, including Elijah Stone, Scott Lutz and 2012 Wildflower singer songwriter award winner, Nicolette Good. The disc starts off with a CW folk ditty, “My Mountain Home”, describing a stress free life without appointments or traffic and features a lively combination of harmonica, fiddle and pedal steel. “Porch Swing” creates an image of a peaceful day enjoying the scenery from the porch, in a gentle rolling rhythm. The tempo picks up a bit with “Wear the Hat”, featuring an eerie rocking electric guitar rhythm and speaks of taking responsibility and decisive action.
It’s back to the country on “This World Alone”, featuring pedal steel and fiddle, about finding one’s way through life. “Curtain Call” is a rueful pop number about the end of a relationship. Assonance, consonance and irony are on plain display on “Bloody Murder”, a gentle wandering tune about a wild heavy metal show. “Everybody Carries a Gun” tells the story of someone trying to escape justice for a crime of passion committed with a gun, by driving for the border. The rhythm moves, pushed by a distant fiddle line and punctuated by a finely crafted electric lead guitar.
A light tripping finger picked riff forms the base for “Her Recipe” with a beautiful Tejano accordion fill and a light hearted vocal about picking oneself up after a fall and pushing forward. Pedal steel and harmonica set the stage for “Local Mind” about settling down from wandering for a more structured life. The band throws in a short techno composition, called “Rh Mixup”, just to break up the tone of the album.
“Baby Doll” has a fast paced drum rhythm and a light hearted acoustic guitar intro that pans out to add an electric guitar lead, reminding me of a South Texas version of a Poi Dog Pondering composition. There is a combination of pedal steel, fiddle and accordion behind a light acoustic guitar rhythm on “Hit the Ground” about developing an empathetic attitude toward the world. “Cabin in the Clouds” speaks of social awareness in a dissonant world with a quirky acoustic guitar riff and fades away into an ethereal horn arrangement by bassist, Dylan Ilseng.
If you can imagine an optimistic David Byrne writing songs with a tight rhythmed Texas folk band, you will be well on your way to getting the feel of this album. The songs are fresh and unique and delivered professionally by great musicians with fine production. The whole record carries a genuinely light hearted and positive attitude. This one is well worth a close listen.