image Whistlin’ Bliss: Zonnis – “Rise of the Sheep”

~Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)

Following a bevy of live performances and a number of singles, the long-awaited album The Rise of the Sheep from Victoria-based band, Zonnis, delivers some light and twisting country folk. Though it still shares some inevitable cheesiness that particularly plagues guitar-toting old timers–a country folk romance is bound to dip into cliché–Andrea Zonnis’ vocals and Adam’s pronounced southern twang divert attention from the mundane themes. Whether infusing a low hum under the pretense of a fun diddy, “Moonshine,” or the bluesy incantations on the graveyard tune, “The Ghost Song,” Zonnis’s infidelity to a single genre is their strong point. This utilitarian ethic doesn’t confuse pragmatism with cynicism though; Zonnis is defiantly joyous whether forecasting the fun times they’ll have on the romp “Party Boots” and even when dealing with heartbreak on “Too Little, Too Late.”

But unfortunately, I felt as if my listening was cut a bit short in a way. This is partially due to my experiences with country and folk music more generally coaxing me into a bias that I feel I need to lay bear here:

My past encounters with country music usually break down into two ends. The first is, I’ll pop in a record be like, oh, okay this really isn’t for me. And then I take it out, it’s fine. Everything’s cool. The second end, the one that occurs more often than not, is that I’m listening, I’m jammin, I digg it. Then something happens. Something is said out of the lips of a pasty white country singer that just makes me click the pause and be on with my day. So it’s fair to say that I half enjoy country when a good song is played. Unfortunately, when I listened to Canadian-folk duo Zonnis’ new album, “Rise of the Sheep,” the experience fell into the latter category.

Right around “Coco Loco” I started getting the familiar feeling that this country band delved into cliche bordering on stereotype. Andrea paints the image of a humid, swampy, and exotic Costa Rica home to casinos and female thieves reminiscent of the jezebel feminine construction. Made even more problematic by Zonnis’ own racial location, the song just hit me the wrong way, honestly, and colored my engagement to the project more generally. Zonnis is talented and the duo seems grateful and jovial about the privilege of being able to display that talent. But, to say that I was not immediately affected by that lyrical imagery would be disingenuous.

Nevertheless, I mean not to dissuade a prospective listener, even listeners of color, from jamming out to their heat–there are some real gems here–the album is full of little surprises (the electric guitar solo on “Party Boots” being one) that keep it afloat. Zonnis is a nice record that feels more glossy than it should be–the blues (and therefore country) feel like they should be a lot grittier than the picture Zonnis paints. The optimism is admirable even if the delivery could use some work.


Stream the album in full at Bandcamp:



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