Noah Gundersen has dropped his own name from that of his band, known now only as "The Courage," but that doesn't mean the songwriter's creative stamp isn't found on the band's new full-length record, Fearful Bones. Still, the record is a departure for Gundersen and company, who were originally known as a folky acoustic act when they began touring out of Centralia, Washington, making stops in Central Oregon at the Sisters Folk Festival. It's a remarkable departure, and the calling card of a band that's settling into its own sound.
Fearful Bones is, at times, a rock album, but Gundersen manages to keep the folk ethos in his songwriting, even in louder numbers like "Frequency." This song showcases The Courage's indie-rock crossover potential with its orchestral strings (played by Gundersen's younger sister, Abby) that lead Gundersen's haunting whisper through the song's mysterious middle. About half of the record is markedly quieter, propping up an excellent sonic juxtaposition. "Summer Sky" kicks off the album with Noah and Abby's voices melting gorgeously into an airy folk vibe and "Moles" evokes the hushed tones of present-day folkies like Horse Feathers and the Low Anthem. Sensible balance between these two tones is hard to find on most records yet The Courage does it masterfully here.
The Courage, which features Sisters' Travis Ehrenstrom, recorded the album last spring at Sisters' Pine Meadow Ranch in the barn where the late Doug Sokol (to whom the album is dedicated) once hosted concerts. The record, however, doesn't come off as a barn production, but rather a slickly innovative disc that is likely just the beginning of many for one of the Northwest's most solid young bands.