A lot has been said or written in recent years about a “resurgence” in the Americana music scene. But much like the countless stories detailing renewed interest in vinyl, it is something that never truly went away. Rather, more bands are getting mainstream attention and therefore reaching a wider audience and media coverage. Much credit has been given to the 2000 Coen Brothers film, O, Brother, Where Art Thou? for bringing this music to the forefront once again, as well as artists like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and others.
While many of the current Americana favorites are made up of large ensembles employing fuller sounds, The Lumineers might best be described as minimalist folk in comparison. Starting out in 2005 as a two-piece band, they evolved into a five-person group by 2012, but managed to keep their sound simple. Instead of relying on an onslaught of instruments, they have found their strengths in Wesley Schultz’ worn, convincing crooning and honest lyrics.
Like many of the songs on The Lumineers’ self-titled debut album, the words in “Slow It Down” focus on a broken relationship and the desperation to understand what went wrong. Written by guitarist/vocalist Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites, it’s clear that one or both of these gentlemen has endured his share of heartache.
An aptly-titled ballad, the song starts out with Schultz calmly describing his world crumbling around him: “I feel a filth in my bones / Wash off my hands ’til it’s gone / The walls, they’re closing in / with velvet curtains.” But by the third verse, he is channeling his inner Black Francis in the way he sings, “They’re making noise in my street / My blinds are drawn, I can’t see / Smashed in my car window / Didn’t touch the stereo.” The manner in which he yelps the last two lines effectively conveys his increased frustration about his lover’s infidelity. His indifference concerning the world around him also speaks volumes about his singular focus on the hurt he is experiencing. The remaining lyrics are delivered in much the same manner, faintly accompanied by slowly strummed, electric guitar.
As the song continues to unfold, Schultz repeatedly declares a willingness to welcome his lady back, but not without lamenting about her indiscretions. Still believing their relationship is salvageable, he opines in the last verse that “Only love can dig you out of this,” in reference to what they once had and still can, with her cooperation.
The raw emotions expressed in songs like “Slow It Down” and a simple, folkafied sound have brought The Lumineers much recognition and several sold-out concert appearances, less than a year since their album’s release.
If they continue to approach their craft in this manner, it should help establish them as true artists and not just poster children for a “revitalized folk movement.”