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The Mule & The Elephant

For anybody who fancies a change from listening to songs about shallow romance or throwing parties at the weekend, I strongly suggest you to give The Payroll Union a whirl. Formed here in Deep South Yorkshire back in '09, this Americana-folk band are an absolute lyrical delight. Their interest in American history is brilliantly refreshing, and gives what would already be stunning music a whole new depth.

The band's debut album, The Mule & The Elephant, released last month, captures the essence of a brilliant folk album - it tells a story in the way that so few genres of music are able to grasp. From the moment you hit play, you are thrown into 19th century America though tales of, in the bands' own words, "profiteering politicians, jealous duels, expansionist opportunists, illegitimate wars, illegitimate children, mourning, betrayal, revenge and poverty".

Switching from indie rock riffs to the more familiar dark folk melodies complementing the murderous lyrics, the album keeps you on your toes, leaving you unaware of what is coming next. A perfect example of this comes as we hit tracks four and five. 'Cawing Cuckoo' has a really playful feel, complete with percussion and cute harmonies, before we slide into 'Mary Lamson', probably the most melancholic song we are treated to. Slow and torturous, the emphasis is entirely on the dark lyrics, which combined with Pete David's grizzly and delicious vocals makes for a real success. I really can't wait to see the band play this track in particular live.

Other highlights include 'Hard Times', an upbeat rockabilly track that you'll find yourself singing along to in an instant, and 'Peggy's Tavern', which has been available to download for free from the boys' Bandcamp page for a while. 'South' is the complete package. It's like a story inside a story, with all of the peaks, troughs, harmonies, tempo changes and guitar solos that you could wish for.

The Mule & The Elephant is a real game changer for Sheffield and folk music in general. Be sure to get your hands on a copy and experience good old fashioned Americana brought into the 21st century.