THROUGH THE WILD - THE WILLOWS
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - DECEMBER 2018
Artist: The Willows
Release Date: 30th November, 2018
Genre: Folk, Americana, Roots
Record Label: Elk Records
Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
After two critically acclaimed albums the multi award winning Cambridge based supergroup The Willows return with their exciting third album ‘Through The Wild’
It’s a very polished and powerful Anglo-Americana cocktail from one of the best bands on the live circuit With influences from ranging from English folk through to Americana and Bluegrass, the band thrill with a range of original and fresh sounding songs
The Willows were formed eight years ago and they have been championed my many people in the industry including the excellent Bob Harris and Mike Harding. Their debut album ‘Beneath Our Humble Soil’ produced by the very talented Stu Hanna (Megson) gained high praise from the music press and fans alike. The band have supported Lau, Seth Lakeman, Peatbog Fairies and Richard Thompson, as well as starring at many festivals and UK tours.
The band is fronted by Jade Rhiannon who is joined by multi-instrumentalist husband Cliff Ward on banjo, guitar, voilin and vocals. Ben Savage also known for his duo partnership and producer duties with Hannah Saunders, is a dynamic dobro and guitar player. The much in demand Evan Carson is an excellent and very versatile percussionist, also know for being part of another great folk supergroup Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys. Joining the original line-up on the recording is the multi-award winning Katriona Gilmore, of the excellent multi-award winning Gilmore & Roberts adding her impressive fiddle, mandolin playing and vocals and finally one of the finest session double bass players in the country, John Parker (Nizlopi).
The album sees the band working for the first time with Mark Turner who co-produces with Ben Savage. There is a notable emphasis too on the album for home grown songs from Cambridgeshire, the Fenlands and Gog Magog hills.
The album opens with the full-bodied and uptempo ‘Coda’ with it’s beautiful interplay of instruments and vocals. The gentle and reflective ‘Better Days’ explores dealing with the subject of grief and then meeting someone who brings hope and light in the dark days. It’s a song which will really stay with you. I also love the way it builds. ‘Lovers’ Ferry’ is a wonderful new take on ‘The London Waterman’ a 18th century love song which was learned from the singing of the great Peter Bellamy. The addition of banjo and dobro changes the feel from a straight traditional folk song into a more Americana version. Evan’s bodhran playing gives the song a rich percussive baseline. ‘Perfect Crime/Earnest Durham’ explores the true story of WW1 soldier Percy Cox, who came from the Fens and stole the identity of an Australian soldier to earn a higher wage. I particularly enjoyed Kat’s fiddle and Evan’s percussion and the tight interplay of Cliff’s banjo and Ben’s dobro on the track….and the explosive high energy finish.
One of the gentler songs on the album is the beautiful and poignant ‘Honest Man’. I always think a great album has light and shade, and this track is a great example of a change of pace and feel helping to showcase each song in turn. The highly addictive ‘Pearl Heart’ allows Ben on electric guitar and Evan on percussion to really shine. It’s themed around a 19th century born Canadian born highway women who runs away with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show. Again with a lovely change of pace and continuing the previous theme of personal wartime stories ‘Out Of Our Hands’ is based on the book ‘A Memory Of Solferino’. It explores both the horrors of war and the lack of aid back in 1859. The books publication helped form an international movement the Red Cross and also prompted The Geneva Conventions.
The first single from the album is the very catchy ‘False Light’ complete with another big production arrangement and high energy finish. It’s a hook that you will remember with banjo and fiddle providing the base before guitar, dobro and percussion kick in. I really like the vocals with Kat providing the counterpoint ‘call and response’ harmony to Jade’s rich tones. It’s sure to be a live audience favourite. The song explores the night lights that people imagined they saw in the fenland marshes, luring them of the path to their fate. Inspired by the Cambridgeshire chalk hills trodden by the huge feet of mythical giants is the light and airey ‘Gog Magog’. The album closes with the exquisite ‘Dear Lily’ dedicated to Jade’s great aunt who lived over a century despite losing her husband many years earlier. A song sung with a simple tenderness and dreamy instrumentation laced with soaring fiddle.
The album by The Willows is always a mark of high quality and one which you know will be brilliant played live as well. It is also an album which gets better and better with each play, as you explore each of its rich facets. They are a very talented, highly imaginative and super tight band with each member excelling in their own right. The Willows have often been described as a UK Folk and Americana supergroup and on the strength of this album you can see why.
The Willows launch their new album in London on the 5th December at The Half Moon in Putney. It’s one gig of the year that you shouldn’t miss. See you there.
Purchase your copy from the link below or in person at the gig on Wednesday >>>