I am reviewing The Lark and The Loon’s Homestead Hands and The Lark and The Loon 2 together, as I received them that way, but also because they were practically recorded back-to-back as well.
Homestead Hands glows with a welcoming warmth like a flickering cabin fireplace. Husband and wife duo Jeff Rolfzen and Rocky Steen-Rolfzen play authentic folk-blues that harkens everything from dust-rich Carter Family recordings to swinging neo-Dixieland jazz artists like the Petrojvic Blasting Company.
While some songs dip deeper into blues, with extensive (and not to mention exquisite) use of resophonic guitar, others dwell further into jugband-like jigs and even loose sea shanty-esque territories with a liberal amount of droning accordion. Regardless of whatever style bleeds through the most, what all of these songs share in common is a fun, vaudevillian sense of charm, which seems to come naturally for the couple. Even during the record’s slower, gloomier moments, the duo can still make you smile.
The sound here also perfectly conjures up the Ozarkian surroundings that The Lark and The Loon proudly surrounded themselves with. Songs like “Time For Moving On’ and “Bitterroot Creek” make you visualize arid sandstone bluffs and golden late afternoon sunlight painting scrubby plateaus.
Picturesque, well varnished and full of heart, Homestead Hands will take you in and keep you company before serving you a drink and offering you a dance. How many records can you say that about in 2019?
The Lark and The Loon 2
As previously mentioned, 2 was recorded mere weeks after Homestead. Despite this closeness in time, there is a marked difference between the two albums.
This record perhaps features more of a singer-songwriter slant than its recent predecessor. While the two albums feature plenty of bluegrass and Dixieland Jazz influence, the music found across the majority of 2 is noticeably subtler. The arrangements are a little simpler, slightly less instruments seem to be used (keep in mind that this duo can—and usually do—play just about everything) and instead, the focus seems to be placed more on the singing.
The liner notes do reference how the songs were written as a collection of duets, and in that sense, the band absolutely accomplished exactly what they sought out to do. The tunes here absolutely show off the duo’s writing and singing chops. You can easily have these melodies and curiously scenic lyrics tagging along in your head all day long. This different approach towards the record makes it a nice companion piece to the more elaborately constructed and recorded Homestead. This is in no way a criticism. On the contrary, I find that these two records together do a fine job showcasing the group’s many varied talents. In fact, while each one works wonderfully on their own, I’d still recommend that you buy both and play them back-to-back (as I always do).
It’s always fantastic hearing new material from The Lark and The Loon, but these two records are especially strong cases that we need to hear more from them in the coming years.