Honestly, the incessant need to classify bands into a simple sound has probably hurt The Schomberg Fair more than almost any band out there. You can barely read a review without hearing someone slapping some sort of “speed gospel” or “death metal blues” sticker on the cover. Not only do the descriptions make no sense and probably turn casual listeners off, they overlook a lot of the creative elements the band brings to the table.
Matt’s ferocious banjo picks, Nate’s fuzzy bass and backing vocals (that are so deep they make James Earl Jones sound like Justin Bieber) and Pete thumping the skins like a deleted scene Higher Learning; these basic building blocks are required when it comes to the new waves of swampy, dirty blues but the band’s new EP, Mercy, finds the fellas defining a unique sound.
The title track explodes with the same spirited rumble that defines The Schomberg Fair, but the band transforms fire and brimstone into a more inspiring, spiritual affair. The damn near Bruce Peninsula group vocals and kick drum back beat feel like a call to God and make you forget about the whiskey fueled, bar room ready beginnings.
The real change in sound shows up on “Black Train.” The song starts inauspiciously, but slowly and assuredly the trio adds metal guitars and noise to the song. That huge swell of sound dominates the driving “Mark of Cain” as well. Nate’s fuzzed out bass sounds fantastic, and I’m not sure if they build banjos that look like Bill & Ted guitars, but if they do, Mr. Bahen needs to snap one up quick fast as the song’s could be played at any Headbanger’s Ball.
“Orphan Bones” is the most restrained and melodic song I’ve heard from the band, and proves that years of gigging hard has really helped the band fine tune their strengths. In past efforts, Nate’s vocals were more of a change up, a shocking addition to the mix but now he and Matt can share vocal duties on a tender song without breaking stride.
Remarkably, even with all of the new textures and growth the trio displays, the high water mark of the EP is the spiritual closer, “I’d Raise My Hand.” Again, the band experiments with a more traditional gospel sound — the group vocals on the chorus feel like the voice of a congregation — but it’s the heavy guitar, drum crashes and the almost space rock breakdown that really gives the song depth.
Mercy is just a teaser; the band will be delivering a full length in 2012 and chances are they will be heavy, spiritual and amazing, but it won’t be speed gospel. Check out The Schomberg Fair November 30th @ Gus’ Pub.
MP3:: The Schomberg Fair - I’d Raise My Hand