The Beaten Sea

There's quite the folk scene brewing in Dallas these days, and much of the credit for the genre's rebirth can be given to the so-called Dallas Family Band, which, among its rotating players, counts Jacob Metcalf, The Fox and The Bird, Something in the Wheel, Lalagray and The Beaten Sea. It's the last act listed among that crop that bears the onus of being the first to provide an album that can be taken away from the sing-alongs that these outfits' shows so often become.

On its self-titled, full-length debut, The Beaten Sea proves it's up to the task, and not just because, like its cohorts, this outfit's catalog is inherently catchy and memorable. Rather, The Beaten Sea stands out from its collaborators (many of whom appear in backing roles on the disc) because the duo of Benj Pocta and Jaime Wilson aims to take listeners on a journey to a dusty 1800s landscape, when its banjo- and acoustic guitar-picking aren't just the norm, but a welcome salve from the time's hardships.

Wilson and Pocta's vocals both capably show the strains of the difficult times they aim to recreate, with Pocta's standing out as especially road-worn and compelling—and it more than does the trick on songs like "Doctor's Not Gonna Cure Our Ills," "Grave Clothes," "Lonesome Tune," "Serpent Song" and "It's Hard to Resist," all of which set this troubled scene impeccably and share compelling parables. It helps that, unlike in a live setting, the band is joined here by drums and full-on accompaniment, but it's the honesty behind these songsmiths' tunes that stands out.

The Beaten Sea's songs certainly conjure testier times, but, as a whole, they make for a joyous collection. And, in turn, this new outfit has not only offered up the finest area debut of the year, but also a contender for the finest album we've heard in 2010, period.