Imagine yourself lying in the soft grass of a river bank during a gentle afternoon at the peak of spring. The sun nods in approval as a flock of birds pass above your head. The soft breeze is like the tones of a pan-flute: whistling through your ears as you admire the willow trees dancing along to its happy tune. Every now and then there is a swell in the river while an otter pokes its head out of the water inquisitively before being swept away by the excited current.
Gold Lion, started in early 2011 by Mariah Mercedes is a power-folk band based out of Shakopee, Minnesota. Much like a spring day, they play and perform their music like the awakening of new life; like a roaring lion: “Gold Lion awoke from his slumber in the spring. The lush, callow grass was faintly glistening from the fresh morning dew. In his low rumbling whisper he sang ever tenderly, “I’ll show you where the light is”. All God’s creatures joined in harmony to the aria of the earth, and everything was well.”
Listening to their latest release, Lucky You, One More for Me, it is evident the members of Gold Lion intend to own up to everything their rather unique genre entails. There are hints of artists like Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver woven throughout their music, with a unique, almost mystical feel brought about by meandering flute and a slow 6/8 time pulse. All of this is covered by Gold Lion’s lead vocalist, Mariah Mercedes with words flowing like a river over a sometimes smooth, sometimes chaotic landscape. For example, “Bones” on their latest release, brings about a sudden intensity as a flute melody is backed by passionate lyrics and percussion, while “Sink/Swim” ushers in a smoother current that lends itself to the genre’s more scenic parts of the river. Each song is primarily guitar-driven, much like Bon Iver’s For Emma Forever Ago, later giving way to drums and tambourine, similar to the songs of Fleet Foxes.
The diverse array of instruments in Gold Lion is the most intriguing part of their sound. In addition to Mariah, Gold Lion includes Liz MacDonald on the cello, Jackie Jansen playing banjo and mandolin, Benton Herbel also on guitar and vocals with Ted Tiedemann on bass, and finally Justen Miller tying it all together on the drums. Indeed, Gold Lion’s lineup alone is enough to establish them as a fine folk band–enough to transport their listeners to the banks of sunny rivers in the height of spring–but their vehement desire to fill each song with new intensities and rhythms is what pushes them to own their genre.
Anyone looking for a band that takes folk to a new level should give Gold Lion a listen, and perhaps leave their place on the river bank and join the river in its abounding joy like the roar of a lion.