East Cameron Folkcore – For Sale

EAST-CAMERON-FOLKCORE-ALBUMMy first experience with East Cameron Folkcore was at Threadgill’s maybe a year and a half ago. I forget who I’d gone to see, but I was excited to check out this other group (ECF) that I’d heard so much about. It was enjoyable folk-rock music that drew in a devoted crowd of two dozen or so folks that gathered around the stage and shouted along to every lyric. ECF played heavily to that crowd, and the whole thing seemed like a rather pleasant experience for everyone involved. It was reminiscent of when your high school friends started a band as an excuse to give everyone something to go do on a weekend night; all of the friend group went and no one really cared if anything bigger came from it. Well, on For Sale, which comes out next week, East Cameron Folkcore apparently do care. They care a lot.

It’s not that they care about hitting it big. The title isn’t a reference to selling out in a grand Mumford-y kind of style, but rather to the “For Sale” signs that have marked the home foreclosure crisis. ECF cares about all of the societal ills plaguing us young, motivated liberals and have decided to record an album about them. Because I fall into their target demographic, I’ve been genuinely moved to anger or depression on more than one occasion listening through this thing.

The standout track to me, the one that really resonated the most, was “Sallie Mae.” After a lengthy and tumultuous intro, the lyrics paint a picture of utterly contemporary despair about “the lies of a higher education.” As one of the hundreds of thousands of young Americans saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and seemingly meaningless degrees, everything about this song resonated with me. The darkness of the music just enhances the impact of the frustration in the lyrics.

And this shouldn’t be surprising for a record that begins with Mario Savio’s famous “Bodies upon the Gears” speech, in which he incites the UC-Berkeley demonstrators in 1964 to halt the university’s operations. ECF uses this sound clip as the intro for their opening song “Robin Hoods Rise.” It reappears in “Enemy of the Times” later in the album, as one of a series of speechs from different periods of time that help illustrate that for as much as things change, they tend to stay the same as well. Though there are songs that deal with the more personal like “Salinger’s Dead,” which takes on the singer’s drinking habits, it’s hard not to read a song like “Worst Enemy” in the political framework of the album as an address to the self-victimizing right-wing.

East Cameron Folkcore - 'Salinger's Dead'

My one big complaint about For Sale is how low the vocals are mixed. It’s sometimes hard to make out exactly what any given singer is singing, and for an album that so heavily relies on its lyrical message (I imagine), it can be really frustrating not to be able to understand what that message is. The ten or eleven piece band can make quite a racket (often in a great way), and that easily overpowers the vocals on a lot of occasions.

That said, For Sale is a classic folk record, addressing the needs of our times in its lyrics while being timeless in its arrangement and instrumentation. There’s no question that with their third full-length record, East Cameron Folkcore aren’t just speaking for their northeast Austin neighborhood, but for the millions of us still struggling to find our feet in the Great Recession.

Catch them at their CD release party on February 8th at the Scottish Rite Theater.

– Carter