The Schomberg Fair Gospel

The Schomberg Fair Gospel
When I first heard this Toronto, ON trio on their 2008 debut album, Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground, I was under-whelmed by the too-raw mix of punk and old-time country, punctuated by over-the-top baritone backing vocals. Happily, the band have refined their sound immensely on this 11-track, 32-minute follow-up. The production values are higher, the performances are blazingly tight, and even those back-up vocals, courtesy of bassist Nathan Sidon, are no longer as distracting. This leaves front-man Matt Bahen plenty of opportunities to show off his Dock Boggs-on-speed approach to both songwriting and banjo playing. With most of the original material inspired by Bahen's day job as an outreach worker, there's a constant tug-of-war between sin and salvation throughout the album, and well-executed covers of "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" fit in nicely with Gospel's overarching theme. While it can't be said that the Schomberg Fair have yet to plumb the same dark depths as the Gun Club or 16 Horsepower, they're well on their way. (Hi-Hat/Sonic Unyon)