The Suitcase Junket’s edgy fourth LP Pile Driver attempts to capture the peculiar charm, old-fashioned tenacity, and southern-styled neo-folk of one man band Matt Lorenz.

To see Matt Lorenz, better known by his stage name The Suitcase Junket, perform live is a spectacle. His set-up resembles a folksy yard sale littered with odd trinkets and knick-knacks. His seat, a shoddy and beaten suitcase, doubles as a kick drum. In place of a snare drum is a tin gas can, often slapped by a small toy boot fashioned to a kick pedal. To his left is a saw blade and a cooking pan; they sound like cymbals when smacked in the right spot. The microphone, a classic Elvis-style Shure 55, spews the sound of vintage junkyard Rock & Roll.

Even Lorenz himself looks vintage (more specifically, his resemblance to Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali in Midnight In Paris is uncanny). The entire visual impact of the set-up, though unusual is strangely comforting (think: grandpa’s basement). Yet, when the man straddles his suitcase to play, he summons a fury of sourceless, crunchy sounds like some sort of voodoo puppet-master. To see this live is a spectacle. However, on the Junket’s fourth LP release Pile Driver, we are given a little less Dick Van Dyke à la Mary Poppins, and a little more traincar busker à la Woody Guthrie.

What’s most fascinating about Pile Driver is Lorenz’s variety. For example, the fuzzy rockabilly number “Jackie” plays out as a 50s sock-hop jam: rowdy and predictably fun, with hand claps and a solo section. Then, through the wall of sound… throat singing. As in, Mongolian overtone singing. For those who don’t know what that is, think of the sound a didjeridoo makes, only pitched much higher.

A step backwards to the album’s mountainous southern-gospel opening track “The Next Act” reveals Lorenz’s interest in guitar-forward alternative rock, with a riff that bares a head-turning similarity to the one in Collective Soul’s radio hit “Shine.” On that same opening track, a Pile Driver-motif is born in the dissonant, retro-keyboard sound, humming a sort of digital chorale (imagine cool bagpipes).

Again, what makes Pile Driver fascinating is variety, but what makes it interesting is the eventual normalcy of unconventional things like throat singing and old keyboards, both of which appear (sometimes simultaneously) on many of the album’s tracks.

Pile Driver hits hardest when it’s barely hitting at all. Album highlights “Busted Gut” and “Why So Brief” turn the tempo down and keep the schtick to a minimum, which in turn offer an insightful look into Lorenz’s legitimate soulful disposition. The rustic temperament of the aforementioned Woody Guthrie can be found lingering in “Busted Gut,” a good ol’ light-hearted fingerpickin’ blues, complete with Lorenz’s nasally, yet charming vocal performance. “Why So Brief,” undoubtedly the album’s most gritty performance, also captures The Suitcase Junket’s unique vocal talent in the form of an R&B singer’s lonesome howl. Elsewhere in Pile Driver, contrary to the oldtime vibe, there are unmistakable parallels to some vocal performances of Dan Auerbach, both tonally and stylistically.

The one thing Pile Driver takes away from The Suitcase Junket is the visual bewilderment, which offers both pros and cons. One con is a loss of charm. A huge part of the Suitcase Junket effect is the live performance. Attempting to capture that sonically while remaining just as effective is an inherent challenge.

What is captured, however, is a kaleidoscope of talent and range explored throughout the album, from the New Orleans styled gypsy jazz of “Seed Your Dreams,” to the straightforward pop songwriting of “Mountain of Mind;” this range would have perhaps gone unnoticed because of such a strong visual representation. Fleet Foxes and other neo-folk stars immediately come to mind, but after digging deeper, there are references to Bayou Ragtime, Mountain Gospel, Alternative Rock, Bluegrass, Country-Western, and an unavoidable comparison to the formerly great Boston band Morphine. These factors come together to create: variety, range, and an undoubtedly fascinating album.

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