threshold_2Written by James Killen

The Threshold and the Hearth – The Ragbirds- CD review

A friend of mine turned me on to a folk rock band from the upper Midwest called The Ragbirds and their new disc, “The Threshold and the Hearth”. They are Erin Zindle on vocals and strings, her husband, Randle Moore, on percussion, Erin’s brother, TJ Zindle, on guitars, Jonathan Brown on drums and Dan Jones on bass. Erin’s high, clear vocals, the prominent use of violins with guitars and the Celtic influence of the rhythms, brought up memories of the British bands of the 70’s like Steeleye Span, Curved Air and Fairport Convention. The Ragbirds have a distinctive American folk style that sets them apart from those prog-folk-rock bands of years ago.

Threshold &Hearth further reminds me of seventies music, in that it is what we used to call a concept album, in that all of the songs fit together to tell a story and present a theme or concept. With today’s music buyers choosing to purchase one or two favorite cuts off of a disc, the effectiveness of a concept album on the mass market might be somewhat blunted, but for an old fogy like me it’s a welcome opportunity to relish an in-depth artistic project.

The story line behind this album traces the lives of a young couple through falling in love, bearing and raising children, and going through the struggles of growing in a relationship. The songs were the brainchild of Erin Zindle, who tells her story using allegory, contrast, and irony to bring her concepts home. The CD is very professionally produced by Jamie Candiloro, who has worked extensively with REM and Ryan Adams.

The record flows between bouncy pop, Celtic tunes, Caribbean rhythms and classical themes as it weaves the tale of a relationship. I would not presume to burden the reader with my all of my interpretations of the songs and their messages (that should be a personal experience), I would like to mention a few of the tunes.

Conflict in the relationship is a theme throughout the production and is really introduced in the third song, “The Curse of Finger Pointing” where Ms. Zindle alludes to the story of Adam and Eve and original sin, backed by bouncy Caribbean pop music. “Sometimes Honestly” could be the pop hit from this disc. It depicts the longing for an unfettered life, from the perspective of a woman that is in a committed relationship and features a country/western bass line and rhythm.

“Alleyway Saints” is the only composition on the record that Erin shares writing credit on (with her brother, TJ) and is the likely rock anthem from the disc. It features soaring guitar solos in telling the story of depression and self-medication, with the composition featuring a classical string closing.

“Strange Weather”, “Tough Love” and “Breakdown” are also significant in the story as the music moves from bouncy Caribbean rhythms, through classical piano themes to a more stoic Celtic style of music.

I would recommend this record to anyone that would enjoy spending some time to really access the message in this composition. I would also recommend it to someone that just enjoys a good folk rock tune on the CD player in his vehicle. In either case, I would recommend buying the whole album as opposed to a couple of cuts. This production was meant to be experienced as a whole.