They’re a quartet. And they’re not from the mountains, though Calgary is close. The music, on the other hand, is not a joke. People often mention whiskey, brimstone, the Mississippi Delta and the Appalachian Mountains when they talk about their music. There are few bands who conjure the intensity of the original blues and folk music pioneers while uniting roots and rock audiences. The Agnostics are one of them.
Hollering, growling, and high, lonesome keening. Duelling slide guitars, tin can banjo, frenetic finger picking, sheet metal percussion, and pounding upright bass. That’s The Agnostics.
Critics drop adjectives like ‘punk’, and make comparisons with Tom Waits, and Captain Beefheart. The band maintain that the punk spirit was born in Delta and the mountains. Beefheart and Waits know that too.
Since the band’s first gig in 2001, word has spread. St. Hubert, the AMGC’s first CD, garnered a fist full of college radio airplay in Canada and ushered them into the roots music festival circuit. Their 2005 follow-up, Fighting and Onions, hit the top 10 of Earshot’s Canadian national campus radio chart, landed them a couple of national performances on CBC radio, bumped them up to bigger festivals – including a hit appearance the 2007 Winnipeg Folk Festival, and started a cult following outside Canada. Mark Lamarr is a convert – they played two rambunctious BBC Radio 2 sessions for him – and so is the roots legend, Seasick Steve. After gigs together at the Open House Festival in Belfast in 2006 and 2007 Steve proclaimed them “my new favourite band.”
Ten Thousand, their latest release, ups the ante. The Agnostics push the boundaries of their sound without straying from what endears them to roots and rock fans. Once again, what’s old is new. And it’s new because the Agnostics make it so.