Album | Frontier Ruckus – On the Northline

In their first album since the acclaimed Enter the Kingdom in 2017, Michigan’s alternative folk trio Frontier Ruckus – comprised of singer-songwriter-guitarist Matthew Milia, banjo player David Jones, and multi-instrumentalist Zachary Nichols – return in full force with On the Northline.

According to frontman Milia, “The Northline was inspired partly by the North Country of upstate New York – where the Thousand Islands pepper the St. Lawrence Seaway – and where my dad’s side of the family somehow landed from Sicily in the early 1900s”. 

This theme of memory and the past is a red thread throughout the album. In lyrics filled with rhymes, rhythms, and nostalgia, Frontier Ruckus paint a wonderful portrait of small-town American life, reminiscing, regretting, and celebrating. It is a raw insight into themes of ageing, loss, love, redemption and home.

There’s the joy of the bright guitar and banjo lines in the title track ‘On the Northline’ and ‘Clarkston Pasture’, rolling along with the drumkit like a Chevy cruising down a suburban street, mellow vocals conjuring up images of hazy summer afternoons. Adding to the sunshine is the smiling ‘Everywhere but beside You’, a daydream of a perfect relationship, whilst ‘Mercury Sable’ grounds the listener again, reminding us that such contentment is often hard-won.

Mixed in with this celebration of life is the melancholy of not-so-sweet memories in ‘I’m Not the Boy’, the sudden changes in rhythm perhaps reflecting how our thoughts change pace as they race and swirl through our heads. In a similar vein is the lament of ‘Swore I Had a Friend’, with a wistful theremin-like backing line reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s Wild West soundtracks.

This album is a real poetic gem, a personal window into the wonders, pitfalls, and experiences of the everyday. The music is as diverse as the lyrics – driving, lazy, ponderous, romantic, airy, adventurous and ethereal – and each track is full of honest reflections on life. So, pull up a chair and lose yourself in the Northline.