Outsider country and alternative folk rock band Have Gun, Will Travel have recently dropped their fourth full-length album, “Fiction, Fact, or Folktale?” on This Is American Music. A follow-up to “Mergers and Acquisitions” (2011), “Fiction, Fact, or Folktale” is a ten-song release featuring acoustic guitar strumming, subtle electric leads, low-end bass accompaniment, tight drumming and stomp n’ clap percussion, half-crooned and half-sung vocal deliveries, and a selection of auxiliary instrumentation. For the most part, “Fiction, Fact, or Folktale?” is the sort of album we have come to expect from this skilled quartet, as well as the sort many of us have come to appreciate.
Altogether, “Fiction, Fact, or Folktale?” amounts to a rambling album which journeys through a wilderness of subject matter and immediate soundscapes, from the stompy country blues opener Standing at the End of the World to the sober picking and slow vocals of the closer Take Me Home, Alice. But there are plenty of worthwhile songs in between the two that deserve mention. Trouble, just such a track, begins with measured strumming and clank n’ bang percussion and calm vocals, reaches the chorus and pick up into a more spirited part, and goes around full circle to end as it started. Places, another standout track, is a strong folk-punk composition, catchy and raw, with a steady stream of rousing vocals. Another Fine Mess is a solid strum n’ bang piece of folk rock, creative and infectious, with slightly distorted background vocals that answer the cleaner vocals at the forefront, both in play with the music. And Fairweather, a well-composed arrangement of haunting Americana, has plenty of gentle twang over an otherworldly choir of wordless background utterances, and main vocals that are both harmonious and sincere.
Have Gun,Will Travel are of the crop of country and folk artists that are somewhat removed from the mainstream, and all the better for it. Other such artists are Austin Lucas, Whiskey & Co., Yesterday’s Ring, Old Man Markley, the now defunct Rumbleseat, and the like. While Have Gun, Will Travel have released four albums to date, their sound is clearly still evolving. And I, for one, see good things for this talented quartet.