Tag Archives: country

Review, Wild Silence, The Wandering Hearts by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Following on from the success of The Shires, The Wandering Hearts are surely the next big breakthrough act in the world of British Country Music. On the evidence of their debut album, Wild Silence, it would be hard to argue otherwise. The recipients of the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ at last week’s Americana Awards have produced something of incredible scope. Here are twelve tracks that seamlessly flow into one another – a musical river of harmonies carving its way through a landscape of various genres and musical arrangements. The inclusion of such a vast array of influences into their songs could so easily have gone wrong. Yet far from a cacophony of sounds, here we have an album that triumphs in the audio equivalent of cocktail making. It shakes together a number of musical ingredients to create a drink bursting with flavour. Such a diverse recipe – including folk, rock, pop, country, and bluegrass – in the wrong hands, has the potential to be a disaster. Yet The Wandering Hearts have created something that packs an authentically tasty punch. It is an incredible and delicious sound.

This four-piece group are far from one-trick ponies. The album takes us on a journey through a soundscape that twists and turns at regular intervals. It is not only between each song, but within each song too, that such changing of musical direction and pace takes place. Opening track “Rattle”, for instance, begins with the floating harmonies of Tara Wilcox and Tim Prottey-Jones. Then, with a single drumbeat, the gravelly tones of AJ Dean-Revington are introduced and we are suddenly exposed to heavily-laden rock. The switch from one style to another is unexpected. Yet it is far from disjointed or off-putting.  Similarly, “Laid into the Ground” begins as a sea shanty before rising to a crescendo of electronic rock. Again, it is unexpected, but surprising alluring. It seems that The Wandering Hearts have refused to sacrifice their multifarious influences in favour of one over all others. Instead, they have sought to incorporate all of them to one degree or another. As a result, it makes for a hugely enjoyable album that defies categorisation.

An inability to generically label The Wandering Hearts makes it hard to offer up comparisons. However, as I listened to Wild Silence, I couldn’t help thinking of Rend Collective. Both band’s albums are of an eclectic nature, and there is a definite similarity between the vocals of their female leads. There is also an ethereal quality to Wild Silence that is produced in a similar way to that found on the albums of Wildwood Kin and The Pierces. In all of these cases, it is the vocal harmonies of their members that manage to evoke such a transcendent sound. Certainly, during the title track for instance, I found that I was transported out of myself somehow. Not so much ‘our only sound’ as a holy sound.

I cannot speak highly enough of The Wandering Hearts. They have produced a stunning first album that deserves to be lauded with every award going. Wild Silence blends together an assortment of styles to create something that is distinct and hugely enjoyable. It is certainly my new favourite thing. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or someone who loves to party on a Friday night, you are sure to find something that fits your mood here. Wild Silence is a musical selection box, full of tasty treats. I urge you to go and unwrap it now, and experience its beautiful, almost sacred, sounds.

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Review, Heartbreak Talks, Fifth Floor by Gareth Williams

 

(3 / 5)

 

The debut album of Swedish duo Fifth Floor is a fine collection of tracks that draw together well-written lyrics and catchy musical arrangements. Imbibed with country-style riffs and rhythms, this selection of songs also features a fair bit of punkish attitude. Contrast that with some beautiful harmonies and you get an interesting overall sound from these ladies that makes Heartbreak Talks an intriguing listen.

You can hear the strength of their simultaneous singing in the opening track “Heart in Your Arms”. Despite the perceived weakness of their solo voices here, the two together create a really nice sound. It sets up their potential which is gradually fulfilled as the album progresses. The vocal arrangements on “Bought Me a Lie” are especially worth a mention. By the time we arrive at standout single “Sippin’ on a Coke”, not only do their combined vocals sound accomplished but there is real strength to their individual performances too. Though not quite my favourite, this song has a great chorus. Incorporating the themes of journeying and home, it reminds me a little of Ward Thomas’ A Town Called Ugley – its understated title line lends it a similar quirkiness though it is much more reflective in its overall tone.

Certainly, the end of this album heralds the strongest pieces from these two Swedes – Moa and Matilda – who moved to the UK in 2012. “These Days” is a lovely arrangement marked by a more stripped back style. The difficulty that I found with tracks “My Backyard, My Business” and “Diabolical” was that the musical power did not quite match the hard-edged attitude of the vocals – these rock-inspired tracks weren’t quite able to rock out. On the other hand, the title track, like “These Days”, with its more acoustic leanings, felt like a more natural fit for these ladies’ style.

Fifth Floor save the best until last. “The Girl” is a subversive ballad that combines the best of their punkish attitude with some gorgeous harmonies. It is understated, clever; heartbreak really does talk here. It leaves you in no doubt as to the theme that has been running through much of this album. Overall, Heartbreak Talks captures a really good, solid country sound. It is a really promising full-length debut from these ladies. Swedish they may be, but they are worthy of adoption into the ever-expanding UK country scene.

Review, To Leave/ To Be Left, Robbie Cavanagh by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Wow. What have you done to me Robbie Cavanagh? I did not expect that. The debut album of this Manchester musician, released this week, stunned me into almost complete silence. Titled ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’, Cavanagh’s first full-length feature may begin with a feel-good beat, but it gradually becomes a mystical, beautiful and haunting piece of musicianship. To touch it would be like caressing the finest of silk. Each of the eleven songs on offer has been carefully handcrafted, honed to such perfection that, if made of wood, your finger would glide smoothly over their surface. It is simply stunning.

The opening track ‘Get Out Alive’ does nothing to prepare you for what is to come. A lively start, it gives credence to the “country artist” label which Cavanagh seems to have been afforded.  However, as the album progresses, he breaks away from any generic confines that industry and media moguls might want to place on him. The next couple of tracks seem to slowly move from country-style ballads to something altogether different. Whilst “Godsend” could be attributed to the likes of Andrew Combs, for example, “Reverence” and “Scars” (which follow) have much more in common with the likes of Welsh folk singer Al Lewis. These offer a simple and repetitive backing track played behind an acoustic guitar, and given an otherworldly feel by the slight reverberation that is added to the vocal output. This ethereal quality, which begins with a degree of subtlety in these early tracks, goes on to permeate through the rest of the album. The listener is soaked in haunting melodies and saturated in a spiritual soundtrack. The heart-rending lyrics only seek to elevate the emotional veracity of Cavanagh’s sound. ‘Let You Down’ is heartbreaking. ‘Fool’ is incredibly soulful. ‘Still Talkin’’ is painfully gorgeous.

This is an intimate album. Cavanagh has an incredible ability to create this close atmosphere through his music. It is just you and him. All other potential distractions are completely drowned out. You become lost in the sensitivity and vulnerability of his performance. At one stage, I even found myself brought to tears. I was so overcome with emotion during ‘Sleep Now’, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Ironically, the song features the line, “What are you weeping for?” Well, Robbie, I’m not quite sure, but I think it might have something to do with your singing. Whatever the reason, I certainly did not expect that reaction.

Together, this exceptional selection of songs marks Robbie Cavanagh out as an accomplished songwriter and musician. He is a major talent who deserves all the plaudits that will surely come his way with such a breathtakingly beautiful debut. I would strongly recommend listening to ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’. Be warned though. It may leave you speechless for a time. You may also experience some unexpected emotional reactions.