In their sophomore release, The Great
Commoner, Brock’s Folly celebrate the checkered legacy of William Jennings
Bryan, the Illinois populist politician turned unwitting spokesman for American
Christianity so possessed with principle that he opposed imperialism, corporations,
banking, and science all at once. Brock’s Folly bookend their record with two
tracks explicitly devoted to Bryan, and the final, incandescent chords of “Who
Will Speak?” answer with confidence the record’s opening lamentation in
“William Jennings,” suggesting that, with their music, the band have once more taken
up the mantle left by their alma mater’s namesake.
The Great Commoner, the band
investigate family, death, commitment, and even eschatology with a nuanced
alt-country rocker (“Same Table”), the stompin’ folkabilly of “Dear Penelope,”
the Appalachian circus pop of “Foxy Lady,” and the bittersweet marching plod of
“Lesson in Dying.” Lillard’s banjo gallops alongside electric bass lines in “William
Jennings” before crisp, harmonic explosions romp through “Boston” with such wry
playfulness. On the other hand, stark silences punctuate Stout’s devastating
“Utah,” which captures in its echoes the grief of fraternal estrangement.
“Romans 8:11,” with equal parts mournful brass and neat, subdued beats, tackles
the loss of a loved one and manages to unite remembrance with surrender.
Lillard’s haunting and enigmatic “Night Before” rounds out the record with a
psychedelic chamber nocturne of slide guitar set to a cosmic arrangement of background
harmonies, the band have led their listener down
countless dusty roads glittering with torment and redemption. The band’s
genuine rapture—this celebratory spirit informed by unshakable conviction—is
enough to make any tourist feel insecure, but these songs, and the raw freedom
of musical expression that Brock’s Folly so treasures, will kindle the spirit
of any listener willing to believe.
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