In the overarching musical landscape, the banjo is in a bit of a precarious position. Celebrated in the realm of traditional folk and country music, the instrument is frequently seen as a cacophonous relic, offering itself to posh indie wannabes and old-time artists without much to see in-between. With Banjolectric, Gregory Mulkern is gearing up to change these preconceptions into something more positive and forward-looking, setting the banjo front-and-center on the album and letting it speak for itself as it reinvents itself across five separate tracks. Billing himself as an “electro-folk” or “New Americana” act, Mulkern’s Banjolectric is as much of a science experiment in letting an electric banjo loose across several wildly different arrangements as it is a passion aiming to prove that the instrument is capable of much more than many might currently ascertain.
“Pope Lick Road”, for instance, heftily swings with poignant, twangy blues undertones, wherein “A Better Man” rides an almost funk-laden groove. Every track presents a new playground for Mulkern to explore in Banjolectric’s So Below, wherein he explores each to its fullest capacity to further establish a point around the instrument’s more multi-faceted nature. As Mulkern tells PopMatters, With ‘Banjolectric’, my focus is the songwriting, but I also wanted to show that the banjo can do more for modern music than add ‘dust bowl chic.’ So Below is like science fiction about a world where the banjo never lost its original status as America’s pop instrument. I insisted on recording every instrumental sound on the album using a banjo to reinvent it for modern music production.
So Below releases on 15 November.