Hope In High Water. Bonfire & Pine. Fish Records

430_5d68ea4159895This second album from Hope In High Water (who amusingly describe their music as “Mountain music from the flatlands of Milton Keynes”) expands somewhat on the simpler guitar and banjo songs which populated their debut from a few years back. Josh Chandler Morris’s guitar and Carly Slade’s banjo are aided and abetted by Luke Yates on violin and percussion with Darren Camp on drums but the primary difference is that the pair have dug deeper into the well of American music. There’s more soul and grit in these grooves, not in an old fashioned R’n’B sense but picking up on vibes cast by the likes of The Band and old folk hands such as Karen Dalton.

The Band come to mind on the opening song, Healed, a song heralded by Morris singing, “Started to feel comfort in my own skin, it took a healthy dose of psilocybin” over a fine and syrupy rootsy rhythm which could have come from an album such as Cahoots. Slade then takes the driver’s seat on the banjo led It’s Over Now proving that she has some grand vocal chops which have a hint of Maria Muldaur to them. The song rolls along in fine style with its old time, almost music hall, sing-along chorus bound to be a live favourite, somewhat at odds with its subject matter which concerns surviving childhood abuse, meanwhile, an accordion allows the song to have a slight anglicised whiff to it in the manner of Richard Thompson.

While not wanting to set the pair to feuding, it’s Slade one looks forward to hearing as the album moves along. Morris has an attractive strained husk to his singing and the pair do fantastic harmonies as on the title song. However, Slade excels on several numbers. She returns to the subject of abuse on Stronger Than You Know, a much starker number than It’s Over Now, with her voice dredged from the depths while her plaintive banjo has the air of Greil Marcus’s old weird America. She gets weirder (in a good way) on the haunting Alone, a song which is worth the price of the ticket in itself as the band throw in some excellent dark folk stylings, while Something Unnamed has the unadorned simplicity which characterises the best of American folk music.  Overall, very nice.

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