There is that elusive thing in all genres of music to sound distinctive while still being true to the audience at whom the music is directed. The Foreign Landers have hit the mark with their debut full length album, Travelers Rest.
They say it takes a story to sell art and the Foreign Landers have that is spades. They are a husband-and-wife duo — Tabitha Agnew is from Northern Ireland and David Benedict is from South Carolina. They met at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh in 2017, and hit it off immediately, finding love and wonderful melodic harmonies in the same place.
Both were accomplished musicians before getting together, with Tabitha putting in time with British bluegrass band Midnight Skyracer and David working with Mile Twelve. Both worked with Cup O’ Joe.
Nine of the ten songs on the album are original, and while each stands on its own merits, when the listener realizes they work together to tell the couple’s story, it is even better. Agnew’s soulful vocals are the perfect delivery system. They had to scramble and contend with transatlantic flights and shutdowns during the pandemic to avoid being separated. Some other reviews have referred to the album as a bluegrass/folk opera.
Travelers Rest is taken from the name of the couple’s town in South Carolina. “Johnny’s Peacock/The Red-Tailed Hawk” showcases a blend of bluegrass, folk and Celtic roots. “Garden” is also among the best, but the album is one of those just-hit-play-and-repeat collections. The one cover is a take on Jimmy Martin’s “Sunnyside of the Mountain” that is so unique in its presentation that it seems like an original.
Travelers Rest is moving and authentic true roots music. The Foreign Landers also brought in special guests John Doyle (guitar), Brian Finnegan (whistle), Brittany Haas (fiddle) and Ethan Ballinger (electric guitar) as well as musicians on bodhran (Irish frame drum), pedal steel, snare and diatonic accordion. Like I said, the sound isn’t like any other.
The couple’s previous EP, Put All Your Troubles Away made a splash in 2021, which left listeners clamoring for more. Thankfully, more has been supplied with Travelers Rest.