Attempting to convey personal stories through the eyes and actions of another can be a risky endeavor for a songwriter. Artists can risk transforming what should be a narrative driven by personal emotions and experiences into a glorified work of musical fiction. This risk pays off for Evan Allis and the other members of Iron Eyes Cody. Across the six tracks of their debut album, Goodness All Good Saints Have Died, listeners are dropped into a variety of narratives that take them from New Jersey to Oklahoma to the bayou.
The seeds for Iron Eyes Cody were planted at Middlebury College in 2013 and grew over the next year into the six-piece form it takes today. Allis, who also plays guitar, provides vocals along with Renn Mulloy. Add Noah Stone on keys and accordion; saxophone, harmonica and vocals by Mark Balderston; Joe Leavenworth-Bakali on guitar and bass; and Patrick Freeman on drums and mandolin, and you have the backbone for Allis' poetic storytelling.
The band is wise to begin with "The Distance," a track that exhibits Mulloy's capable vocals. When she enters a minute into the track, Mulloy instantly adds melodic color. She also introduces a new character to the sound that extends through all the tracks that follow.
Although unassuming on the surface, "Stuck Here With My Thoughts in Trenton" demonstrates the band's musical prowess. As Allis repeats the lyrics "Yankee streets / They can't stand the heat / If the heat's not settling down," the band swells from a faint, distant harmonica to a full-force horn section playing off the singer's melodies.
"The Bayou" again showcases Mulloy as vocalist and suggests what may be the album's only downfall: that it doesn't contain a dozen more songs like "The Bayou." Mulloy's singing style here is more akin to indie-folk; the song wouldn't have sounded out of place on a First Aid Kit album.
With only six tracks, Goodness knows its place. Musicians can be tempted to throw every song in their catalog into a debut album. But the songs here seem deliberately selected to work as a unit, like a well-made anthology film.