A few months ago I reviewed the new record from People Eating People. Laura Stevenson and the Cans are certainly along the same sound profile—folksy female vocals with a tinge of She + Him and a pinch of Regina Spektor. As before, I ask, how can yet another folksy crew of musicians survive? How can they set themselves apart and make their music worth an earnest listen?
Laura Stevenson and the Cans manage just that—and they do it with a twist that isn’t quite the wild gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello, but certainly manages to jump with jangly fast-paced punky multi-instrumental swagger just the same. And while the precious folk thing has been done for a while now, there is something just a bit more excellent about doing a precious folk thing with a wicked punk rock beat and a troupe of multi-instrumentalists. Laura Stevenson and the Cans are precious like Frank Kozik’s artwork is precious. They’re precious like The Happy Tree Friends. They’re about as adorable and innocent as the animated rabbits in Watership Down. The punk-rock sensibility works well here, blending with the lo-fi resonance of the more countrified folk roots to create an album that sounds like it was performed live.
Of course, not every song is tinged with the vicious flavor of punk rock. But even their slower more traditional folksy tunes resonate with the strength of lead singer/guitarist Stevenson’s vocal talents and clever lyrics. I have to say I was tickled with “Beets Untitled” which begins with a dinner of boiled beets and ends with a sad refrain: “Keep away from me / I am full of terrible things / but if you love the terrible / then please be near to me.” I have also officially become my grandmother, who uses words like “tickled.” Although, perhaps it’s appropriate to channel my grandmother, as she listened to her fair share of the folk music during her time—mostly Woody Guthrie—and I have to say Laura Stevenson and the Cans owe quite a debt to that man and his sound.