Indie-folk blues

'Sarah Brown to collaborate with The Shins on a Plea for Peace album!' 'Cherie Blair names Tiny Dancers as support for her European tour!' 'Dennis Thatcher to duet with Devendra Banhart!' No? Only in France could a credible indie band share a record label with the nation's First Lady without so much as a batted eyelid, yet this is the rather enviable position that folk-blues quintet Moriarty have found themselves in after recording their debut album 'Gee Whiz But This Is a Lonesome Town' for French record label Naïve.

Their moniker being a direct homage to Jack Kerouac's infamous wild character Dean Moriarty, the band's off -kilter blend of dusty percussion, theatrical showmanship and French bistro-blues have taken France by storm, with 2009 seeing them attempt to translate their success over the channel.

'Jimmy', the album's promising opener, is a lo-fi acoustic-folk jaunt that endears itself to its audience with honeyed vocals and casual acoustic strum, before reaching a haunting coda, “If you remember you're unknown, Buffalo land will be your home.” Later on, the stripped-down acoustic ballad 'Cottonflower' picks up where 'Jimmy' left off, gentle harmonica introducing a gorgeous slide guitar that could easily go on for hours unnoticed. Rosemary Moriarty's uncharacteristically reserved vocals create the album's beautiful peak, “Even though I hear the robin's crying, not a word 'cos I'm only dying.”

Moriarty's lyrical style is at odds with Kerouac's ephemeral benzedrine-fuelled stream-of-consciousness tirades, opting rather for a slower-paced, comic storyboard style of songwriting. 'Private Lily' introduces the song's key character, then walks her through various scenes in her life, with key themes being underpinned in the choruses. 'Animals Can't Laugh' strikes the right balance between vaudeville camp and bluegrass jamming, as if Billie Holiday had recorded a live album with Muddy Waters, back-stage at the Cirque du Soleil.

Unfortunately the line between whimsical and drivel is thin and Moriarty tread buckled toes over it more than a few times. 'Lovelinesse', as it name suggests, is unbearably twee, with an operatically influenced Rosemary singing of, “pizza with chocolate and cheese,” subject matter that only Kimya Dawson can really get away with. The sheer volume of peculiar instruments, (kazoo, spoons and drilling machines to name but a few), can spell disaster in the wrong hands. There's no doubting the band's carnival-chic musical abilities, so perhaps these instruments are in the right hands, it's just that there are too many to juggle successfully.

Moriarty are certainly leaders in their genre, even if they are the only members in their French bohemian-jazz-blues-vaudeville-folk pigeon-hole. Their idiosyncratic jazz-folk infusions may not be to everyone's taste, yet with label-mates in high places they can comfortably remain on the road for some time to come.