With racial strife, disenchanted youth, and a brutal presidential election, there’s something about 2016 that recalls the heady days of the late-1960s. So, the music of Boston-based folk musician Dietrich Strause feels especially topical and resonant. His third album, How Cruel That Hunger Binds, brings to mind the glory days of Simon & Garfunkel and their lush sounds of a troubled nation.
Album opener “The Beast That Rolls Within” sounds the most like a cut off of The Graduate’s soundtrack, with a softly strumming guitar and poetic lyrics like, “I rolled the ways of the hollow days with the weary chain and the cars. I found the witness to the emptiness with the chambers of my heart.” The listener can’t be sure what Strause is singing about, or if he even knows, but it sure sounds pretty.
Strause, who’s promoting the album with East Coast, Canada, and U.K. performances, moves to a more upbeat sound—though the message stays dark—on the trombone-heavy track “Lying In Your Arms.” Though not the most memorable instrument, Strause’s voice shines on “Dove,” as does his sense of humor in the snarky “Pennsylvania” as he sings, “I’m coming home from the heartland/there’s only so much good word I can take.”
Strause’s thoughtful musings on our country’s troubled times may have been better appreciated 50 years ago—or even 20—but he’s hoping there’s still an audience for quietly devastating music like his. We hope so, too.
This article is a part of the Celebrating Food & the Harvest 2016 issue of Whole Life Times.