Reviewed by: Fareeha Naim
Searching for warm, raw, wistful music? Look no further than Fairground Saints’ self-titled debut album. Started by a chance meeting between the three members, this trio has come a long way in just one year. Mason Van Valin (vocals, guitar), Elijah Edwards (vocals, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, Dobro, accordion), and Megan McAllister (vocals, guitar, dulcimer) create striking tones and intricate harmonies usually found on a second or third album. For a debut, this just leaves us desperate for more.
Fairground Saints has achieved elegance and beauty in both the instrumental and vocal aspects of their album. All highly accomplished musicians and writers, it’s no surprise that their songs reflect their musical prowess. And their voices? Hauntingly beautiful together, soulful and raw apart. The whole listening experience in fresh, intense, and intimate.
The power in their music is fueled by the honesty they put in their songs. Truth and passion dominate the lyrics, drawn from the lives of these gifted writers. They keep the songs conversational and confessional—lyrics you would just say and feel. Combined with rich three-part harmonies, sophisticated melodies, and raw emotions, each track is a testament to the chemistry this trio has. Despite the different and distinct elements exhibited by each member, they mesh perfectly, drawn together by the realness of the music they create.
Starting off with the regretful “Ain’t One For Lyin’,” this track explores being in a relationship when you’re falling in love with someone else. Beginning as a slow ballad, it builds into a rich epic encompassed with distress, confusion, and guilt. A complete turnaround is the next track, “Can’t Control The Weather,” an upbeat, toe-tapping look at the frustration of wanting to control aspects of your life, but just being incapable of doing so. In just two songs, we’re thrown from a low to a high and don’t know where we’ll go next. This is just the beginning of the emotional roller coaster that Fairground Saints brings you on.
A primarily love-driven album, these three musicians put all their emotions out there for the world to hear. Whatever they feel, they want everyone to feel. And they do it well. In their gospel inspired “Church,” you can sense their souls in their words, the power in their voices, and their belief in their music. “Turn This Car Around” showcases Van Valin and McAllister’s voices as the contrast in two sides of a breakup. Starting off in a folk bluegrass regretful lament with Van Valin’s voice, McAllister takes control of the second verse with her “we’re finished and I’m moving on” vibe.
From the beginning to the end, Fairground Saints consistently delivers raw, vulnerable tracks. They’re leaving pieces of their hearts in the music, and after listening to it, pieces of your’s will be there, too.