The album features American folk music, heavy on the banjo and pounding foot, set to lyrics taken from various poets. "Lament for the Makers" takes its words from the poem of the same name by William Dunbar, "Luke Havergal" from the E.A. Robinson poem, and so on. The whole album bears a strong resemblance to William Elliott Whitmore's earlier stuff, and the vibe going on is certainly more folksy than literary.
Fink explains further in the press release:
"August is a cycle of love songs that are based on poems by various authors from various eras including Dunbar, Pound, Swinburne, Teasedale, Wylie, and Yeats. In classical concert music, composers do this kind of thing all the time — that is, take previously written poetry and set it to music for voice and accompaniment — and have for centuries. It felt natural to me to carry the practice into the context of the rock album and, in this case, into a sound world especially steeped in the traditions of American folk music. I chose these poems first because they really spoke to me, but also because they were in the public domain. Most of them are about love, the loss of it, and the memory of it."
The Still Lost Bird blog explains a lot of the songs' genesis and development, and you'd do well to take a look if any of this tickles your musical or English-major fancies.