Material: Here’s proof that two guitars are all you need to satisfy an audience. Consisting of Laura Valk and Connor Gladney, Brooklyn-based alt-folk duo Skout met four years ago over coffee and subsequently garnered the attention of Eric Hutchinson, who produced their sophomore EP. “Just Words,” the title track to that effort, peaked last year at #8 on Spotify’s viral chart. Catch them live and expect meditations about fear of falling in love and knowing when to end a relationship, plus a spunky twist on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
Musicianship: Sometimes less is more and Skout exemplifies this truism. Even when going strictly acoustic, this delicate pair knits a quilt of emotion as inviting as it is revealing. Many folk artists fall prey to the pitfall of incessant dreariness, but Valk and Gladney avoid this peril even while displaying true vulnerability. Harmonies give body to their compositions, but Valk earns the lion’s share of attention with her searing leads. Gladney’s best moment comes when seated, plucking his instrument like a slide guitar and alternately whacking the edge for a beautiful rhythmic thunk.
Performance: Likability remains Skout’s greatest strength, with Valk’s raw vocalizations coming in a close second. It’s the singer’s acuity with audience interaction, introducing songs in between humorous anecdotes and insightful origin snippets, that builds critical listener rapport; her easy demeanor remains a rare quality. Added stimuli by way of branding or other innovative techniques would increase the fullness of their overall presentation.
Summary: It’s regrettable that Gladney can’t match Valk’s vocal prowess. Switching leads would inject their set with greater variety, as well as underscore the notion of a holistic musical partnership. As it stands, Valk is the obvious conductor of this train. They also face a potential stumbling block in the form of their name, which they share with a popular dating app. Still, having accomplished much within a short period, including receiving play on MTV’s Catfish, validates the notion that they’re ripe for an assist in their quest to reach that next level.