A recently popularized trend in folk is to go to a location with no songs but the intent of writing an album, and The District has taken that approach in crafting its debut. The results of that approach are deeply ingrained in the feel of the album, as the whole things hangs together like a wide-ranging conversation that goes deep into the night. Even though parts of it sound nothing like other parts, it still has a definite, comforting feel that will stick with you when it’s over (just like a good conversation).
The District uses snare-shuffle beats, warm acoustic guitars and copious harmonies as their starting point, literally and metaphorically; opener “Open Arms and Broken Hearts” is a perfect purpose statement. The wide-open sound is celebratory with a touch of remorse, which is my favorite mood when I want to clear my head (so sue me if I’m specific!).
“The Creek” dabbles in bottleneck acoustic blues, “Shine” introduces meandering Americana/country (complete with pedal steel!) and “Put Me on Wheels” is straight-up rifftastic Southern rock. “Not Another Shade of Blue” has the dark twinge of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s work. These guys have done their homework, and the sounds here all come off as authentic. This is not a pastiche by any means.
But they’re still at their best when they stick to their starting point and just let it ride, and they know it. They bookend the album with three of the best songs — the aforementioned “Open Arms and Broken Hearts” at the front and “This Too Shall Pass” and “We’re Coming Home” at the end. “This Too Shall Pass” has a beautiful, hushed feel to it that lets the vocalist accentuate particular lines by singing louder or softer. Add in a horn section to the end, and you’ve got gold. “We’re Coming Home” is a bit more pensive, but it’s still got that beautiful, hushed intensity.
“Wellfleet” by The District is a great big slice of Southern music. The fact that this was written in Massachusetts is irrelevant. From folk to country to blues to southern rock, these guys thrown down instrumental and songwriting chops to make a surprisingly cohesive album. Highly recommended for fans of Mumford and Sons, Drive-By Truckers and old-school Wilco. —Stephen Carradini