Inexorably, folk music will be tied to the human experience in almost every manner. From the personal or mythical lyrics detailing events and happenstances to the homegrown instrumentation and production choices in the modern world, the genre still encapsulates a part of the human experience in a way that no other genre can. Now that formality aside, it's almost as difficult to find genuinely good folk music as it is to embrace the Americana-bred lifestyle that the true fanatics do. Hurray For The Riff Raff mastermind/vocalist/banjo player/singer Alynda Lee Segarra went there. Her history of train hopping and New Orleans street band playing have been noted, documented, and subsequently entered the mythos of the entire project, creating an intriguing veil that obscures as much as it magnifies the music crafted. Now ably armed to claim full birthrights to their previous efforts (by that I mean, they made a best-of), the band presents any listener with a simple yet effective collection of songs that almost demand your full attention.

Almost seems a bit harsh on this self-titled offering, but I'll get to that later. What can't be downplayed or taken down any pegs intentionally or not is Segarra's ability to write and deliver her songs with every emotion bared and every scar on display. Her voice, a dark alto that brings to mind a more hinged and less inflected Karen Dalton at the surface level, commands and coos; a thing of beauty to behold. Never falling prey to the available histrionics spared by the sparse (yet hugely propulsive) backings, each syllable is given weight and time to resonate even when just repeating a phrase ("Is That You?" is a natural example to give). Equally displayed as a force is the rest of the band, a crew of typical folk instrumentalists who simply perform with the feel and care of people who believe in their craft, a mood that can only be evoked in this genre when it comes from a true place. With a refreshing lack of tricks to mask the songwriting, there's no lo-fi sludge or ultra-slick processing here, it feels like the band is running through a damn near perfect live set in your mind's amphitheatre. Only the opening 'Meet Me In The Morning' and 'Sali's Song' really let me down, with the former acting only as an instrumental cold open (and an almost superfluous one at that).

So despite my underpinning love and bias towards old folk music, I must admit that Hurray For The Riff Raff ultimately serves its purpose as a stirring folk album well. Barring a few minor complaints like a couple of lesser tracks, a slow middle, and a lack of mandolin, the time has come for me to say what I have been putting off. This is a damn fine album, a work of love and a prime example of what folk music is capable of in modern time plagued by ennui-ridden folksters. 'Too Much Of A Good Thing' acts as not only a maxim for existence reiterated beautifully here, but as a cornerstone for what this band's best writing and performances are capable of; an engrossing and stunning paean to all bends of vagabond tale and lifestyle, rendered lesser only by excessive repetition but still powerfully conveyed.

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