The story of Dark Green Tree is one of serendipity. Chance meetings and a decade of collaborations lie behind this album which was recorded in 2014 and since then the original duo have become a trio. You could actually claim that there’s four folk behind Secret Lives as producer Boo Hewerdine co-writes several of the songs here along with added guitar duties noting that his involvement with Dark Green Tree’s Ross Cockburn began ten years ago at a workshop in a “drafty hotel in Perthshire.” Cockburn found the voice for his songs in Jay Brown and with Hewerdine they set about recording along with some gifted musicians including fiddler John McCusker. Looking for a female voice they happened upon Cera Impala at a house concert in Edinburgh and apparently she is now a fully-fledged member of the band. A somewhat tangled tale perhaps but in essence this quartet of star crossed strangers have conspired to deliver an album that is somewhat akin to the musical meanderings of Mazzy Star or the nocturnal ramblings of Lullaby For The Working Class.
The album opens with the ringing guitar jangle of Yearn For Love, a song soaked in a whisky tinged Americana that swells with keyboards adding a fine soulful feel but Brown’s vocals appear strained and slightly uncomfortable here. A teething problem only however as for the remainder of the album the band head into a darker hinterland allowing Brown’s breathy husk to grow. The brisk Rolling Wind, fiddle and banjo driven with sweet guitar interludes, is more suited to Brown and the addition of the close harmonies from Impala is the icing on the cake. From here on in the album is tremendous. Skin and Bone is a shiver of a song, dread and dark with the insistent pulse of a cello at odds with the fatalism of the lyrics. Lay Me Down rumbles morbidly with fiddle and slide guitar adding a sinister touch while Heart Of Winter is appropriately frosty.
The intimate vocal pairing of Brown and Impala is superb on the limpid slow waltz of Secret Life while the countrified Sarah, a tale of a Bonnie & Clyde type pair that goes awry saws away wonderfully with McCusker’s fiddle playing excellent. However the highlight of the album is their cover of Ryan Adams’ When The stars Go Blue which bursts into view with a spectacular and sparkling guitar intro before Brown and Impala croon away.
With a full release date next week and lots of radio play locally hopefully we’ll be hearing more of Dark Green Tree. They’re’ appearing at this weekend’s Americana Cavalcade at Perth Racecourse at 2 pm so if you’re going get there early.