The Ramshackle Army - Letters from the Road Less Traveled (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Ramshackle Army

Letters from the Road Less Traveled (2014)

East Grand Record Co.

The Ramshackle Army is a six-piece celt-punk band from Melbourne, Australia. I caught them twice on their recent US tour and picked up their debut LP, Letters from the Road Less Traveled. While the album can’t entirely capture the excitement of their live show, it comes reasonably close. Ramshackle Army’s music is foot-stomping folk with punk energy. It’s both joyful and melancholy. It features lush instrumentation and the type of vocal hooks that stick in your head for days. The traditional string instruments compete for space in the mix with loud electric guitar, bass and drums. This is what creates the kind of tension that makes this really memorable.

It’s been difficult for me to attempt to impartially review this album, as I’ve developed a real personal fondness for it. Most of the tempos are upbeat, including the catchy opening trio of songs, “Anchors Aweigh”, “Coffin & Copper” and “Boilermaker’s Hands”. The album’s title, as well as “Road Less Traveled” seem like an obvious reference to the classic Robert Frost poem. It’s all about making tough decisions. A lot of the songs here seem to be about the fear of impending adulthood. Not the kind of adulthood they bestow upon you when you turn 18, the kind you feel in your late 20’s when commitments and responsibilities start piling up.

“Broken Town” expresses the feeling of loving where you come from even though there’s absolutely no future there. “Lockdown” has a little harder edge and seems appropriate for a band from a country that was once a penal colony. The Ramshackle Army provides the obligatory drinking song with “Drink it Dry”. It makes me thirsty. Last song, “One Tree Hill”, might be the album’s best. Truly, there’s not a dud in the bunch.

When I saw The Ramshackle Army earlier this year, I hadn’t heard their record yet. Now that I have, I can’t wait to see them again. Come back my Aussie friends. I’ve grown to love Letters from the Road Less Traveled, and would like to sing along. There’s something about that combination of guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, banjo and violin. If you’re a fan of bands like The Tossers, Flogging Molly or The Real McKenzies, you will almost certainly love this.