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Fair To Midland - Fables From A Mayfly - What I Tell You Three Times Is True CD (album) cover


Fair To Midland

Crossover Prog

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Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars One of my favorite discoveries in the past few years, and among the best albums of any genre released in 2007 is Fair to Midland and their third studio release ‘Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True’. This group’s blend of metal, folk and progressive music was like a sonic explosion of fresh air that summer, and even now two years later this CD still finds its way into my car’s disc player on most of the many treks I make across the Midwestern United States on a regular basis.

I first picked this up at a record store on a whim during a road trip that summer, having never heard of the band but intrigued by the album cover, band and album name, and some of the song titles; all of which suggested a fresh new group whose music was steeped in American folk. That turned out to be sort of true, but the opening blast of “Dance of the Manatee” dispelled any notion this was some sort of rustic, acoustic-strumming, introspective urban folk band. Clifford Campbell opens the first song with a jolt of torrid guitar, then settles down in a fast-paced but controlled tempo just long enough for Darroh Sudderth to warm up his voice before launching into a soaring and explosive vocal rant that fluctuates between heavy folk, metal shrieking and throaty, guttural rap for a fist-pumping rush that returns again and again, offset only by barely-restrained stanzas of freak-out bass, thundering drums and melodic interludes before skidding to an abrupt halt just about the time my blood pressure reaches party stage. An innovative, energetic, and wholly inspiring 4:10 worth of art rock straight out of Nowhereville (aka the lazy burg of Sulphur Springs, a sparsely-populated blip on the map of northeastern Texas).

I have to admit the band doesn’t really stray all that far from this recipe for the rest of the album, but I’m not one to quibble when five guys who are obviously having a blast click so tightly and with such sonic precision. “Kyla Cries Cologne” brings more of the same before the band slows down just a bit to show off their close-up skills on guitar and bare keyboards on “Vice/Versa”, again only for a short while before Campbell and especially Sudderth cut loose again.

The band shows their poetic and rustic side with the galloping American anthem “The Wife, the Kids, and the White Picket Fence”, followed up by a couple more rockers complete with cryptic lyrics in “April Fools and Eggmen” and “A Seafarer's Knot” before showing off their unique heavy folk chops with the tense and melodic “A Wolf Descends Upon the Spanish Sahara”. For another face to their music Sudderth tones down his voice into human range to open “Walls of Jericho”, but he can’t resist showing off his falsetto range on the choruses here either.

"Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes" is the slowest and most restrained tune on the album, but even here Campbell and drummer Brett Stowers can’t restrain themselves completely, and keyboardist Matt Langley plays around with a little nineties new-wave funkiness in between Sudderth’s staccato rants. Like most of the rest of the band’s lyrics I have no idea what Sudderth is singing about, but as the road whizzes by and my ears are filled with the energetic tones I don’t really care either.

Like several other tracks on the album, “Upgrade^Brigade” is a remake off their second album ‘inter.funda.stifle’, but under the tutelage of producers David Bottrill and Serj Tankian this version sounds richer, more densely packed with sound and much tighter than the earlier one.

Finally the band winds down with the spacey, almost ambient “Say When”, belied only by the torpedo voice of Sudderth and Campbell’s whiny guitar chords. A great ending to a thoroughly enjoyable album.

I never cease to wonder at the creativity demonstrated in melding of musical styles more than a half-century after disc jockeys like Alan Freed introduced eager American audiences to that unique blend of Southern blues and rural country known as rock and roll. Fair to Midland are just the latest marvel in that evolution. This is a very highly recommended album from an up-and-coming band, one that should appeal to metal, art rock, progressive folk and just plain rock ‘n roll fans. Four stars.


Report this review (#230447)
Posted Friday, August 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is a very impressive band that play top-notch progressive rock that has quite a variety of influence and sub-genres many time evident in each individual track. Taking a look at this album cover, you think you are in for a nice brand of folk rock or prog-folk. Well.....that's just the very tippity tip of the iceberg here, ladies and gentlemen. If you catch on to the hidden track that's there before the first official track, and hit the back button on your CD player as soon as you put in the disc, you might fall into the mistaken idea that this is a mid-eastern style of folk, but when that first track kicks in, you see how much you were mistaken. Not that that is a fluke, because prog-folk is evident in many places through the album, but it can flow effortlessly into prog-metal as quick as a blink of an eye. And you are left in the world did that just happen?

This band started out by releasing two albums on their own and by pleasing the locals of their home state of Texas. They did so well there, that they decided to try their luck in other parts of the country, but did not fare so well (I'm guessing because their music is quite complex). It got to the point that the band was going to break up and call the whole thing a failure, but right at the last minute, they caught the attention of Serj Tankian (the lead singer from "System of a Down"). He signed them onto his label and was available for advise and became the executive producer for this album. Soon they were opening for bands like Muse, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine and so on.

So, if I was to compare the music to other progressive bands out there, I would have to say this music is as versatile and inventive as dredg at their best. There are not a lot of instrumental breaks or solos here, except on the instrumental interludes. But the band works together flawlessly and flow from so many styles and meters without a hitch. The biggest draw for this band and their biggest thing they have going for them is their versatility and the vocals of Darroh Sudderth. His range matches the versatility of their style point for point. He has a slight warble in his voice when singing softer or more folk style songs that makes him believable in those passages, but he can switch to an amazing falsetto that's just as strong as anything, and still pull off a low guttural heavy rap as good as Serj can and sound just as authentic.

Then there is the feeling of the music. There is so much variety within each song, but each song has it's own feeling and personality. As you listen and become familiar with the tracks, you notice each one does have an overall direction. "Say When" is a beautiful ballad overall with nice harmonies but still has room to put in an amazing guitar hook and solo. The interlude that follows at the end of "April Fools and Eggmen" is a nice sounding instrumental that sounds like something from a rhythmic renaissance style song, then this gives way to the sudden explosive riff that heads off the amazing "The Seafarer's Knot" one of my personal favorites on this album.

This is really good progressive rock to play while on the road. The overall tone is quite heavy, but it changes so much that I think it would be attractive to a wide audience. Really great music, high quality performance especially form the vocalist, but it is obvious that the entire band is talented. This is a band that needs more recognition for sure. This album is definitely an excellent addition to any prog rock collection. 4 strong stars.

Report this review (#1365543)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars There is something to be said about the importance of this album, this is a piece of art that was refined and cleaned for the purpose of well mixed listening. A few of these songs, such as "Kyla Cries Cologne" are re-recordings from a previous album called Inter.funda.stifle

The album opens with the track that is nothing short of greatness and vocals that will knock your socks off. "Dance of the Manatee" kicks off with good riffing and catchy octaves of guitar, followed by Darroh Sudderth's impeccable voice that catches your attention, once he has your attention; he hits you with his range which is larger than Mount St. Helens. When the song finally reaches Climax, Darroh releases the kraken with a monstrous roar that is very specific to Andrew himself. The song does a good job of give and take with Dynamics.

The second track "Kyla Cries Cologne" is an extremely good choice to put as the second song, With the placement being where it is, it is complemented by the intro that sets up the verse perfectly. All together, this song is a pure example of the talent which they have when it comes to musical structure. This version contains second chorus high-notes that have the ability to leave a listener not only impressed, but with a sense of accomplishment. One thing I have to mention is the work of Matt Langley on keys, which played a great role in this song.

"The Wife, The Kids, and the White Picket Fence" is the ballad of the album that provides lyrical content that is poetic and memorable. such as: "Between you and me from point A to point B, is a fine line that burns at both our good ends." The lyrical content has the ability to make minds go into a deep sense of curiosity that ties a song, to a place in one's heart.

At this point in the album, it is time to point out Brett Stowers, which provides exceptional drum work on the track "April Fools and Eggmen". Folks, these choruses are strong. They are solid and the creativity shows.

"A Seafarers Knot" shows how Darroh ensures that a good vocal melody doesn't need to be rushed. Darroh is very smart when it comes to writing vocal melodies, Which also starts out with the heaviest intro of this album.

"A Wolf Descends Upon the Spanish Sahara" Is an absolute gem. It starts off with a very ominous yet relaxing intro that goes into the beautiful verse provided with gorgeous vocals. The prechorus/bridge provides a great set up for the chorus, which like I've mentioned before, is VERY strong. When the song dies down Darroh let's out a weeping and strong belt that shows great emotion. The layering is awesome.

Let's talk about diversity, "Walls of Jericho" kicks off with an intro by Cliff Campbell which is rhythmically genius. This song is the song that Serj sang with them live on a show. Which does not surprise me given that it has every aspect that is desired in a song. The bass parts which are played by Jon Dicken are absolutely essential in this song

As much as I try not to repeat myself, It's hard not to talk about ANY of these songs without talking about these Choruses, which are the best in prog. In "Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes" Mr Sudderth doesn't give you break from his awesome choruses. And to be honest, I am proud of it.

"Upgrade^Brigade"is another song that was rerecorded, and man am I glad it was, I love every single version of these songs, but the sound being as refined as it is makes it really precise and special.

as we get to the ending "Say When" is a song that speaks as an ending, almost like when a hero saves the day and the credits are rolling.

5 stars is something that isn't easy for me to give, but today I give credit where credit is due. This album is history. Regardless of popularity, this album will be remembered.

Fair to Midland, 5 stars. Thank you

Report this review (#2149328)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2019 | Review Permalink

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