The Mile Roses might almost be thought of as a new supergroup, since each of its members has a well-proven pedigree, with an extensive CV that includes solo billing, group work, special projects and in-demand collaborative activities over a period of several years. Edwina Hayes is a well-regarded singer and songwriter, whereas both Kate Bramley and Simon Haworth have worked together in Jez Lowe’s Bad Pennies band. If you took all their individual and collective influences and put them together in one album, then you’d almost certainly come up with something very like The Mile Roses’ sparkling debut. It may initially appear as something of a roots melting-pot, but it’s a coherent and tasty one.
All three participants have always held a healthy interest in the cross-pollination of British and American folk, country and s/s Americana, and this mix is reflected in the stylistic breadth of the material on this album. Of its 14 tracks, no fewer than eight are group compositions and four are Simon’s, with one by Kate and Jez and one jointly penned by Edwina and Nashville songwriter Elizabeth Cook. Lead vocals, however, are equitably shared, while the group harmonies are both appealing and nicely managed. In case you’re wondering, the seed for The Mile Roses was sown when the three met up at one of Simon’s rare solo gigs; they decided to pool resources and write some songs together – the first of which gave its name to the trio. Here, the songwriter reflects as he turns his back on working life and resolves “I’m taking my time on the outside track, and marking miles in roses instead of stones”. This song is typical of the group’s affecting, good old-fashioned crafted writing, peddling honest sentiments without needing to plumb harrowing, deep or desperate emotional depths. The easy-going musicianship of the trio is a bonus too; there’s no needless showing-off – while care had been taken to ensure the arrangements are both varied and listener-friendly and accommodating all tastes on the spectrum, from celtic-tinged folk to gentle nostalgia, breezy come-all-ye to down-home bluegrass. Although the three musicians between them play guitars (Edwina, Simon), fiddle, mandolin and cittern (Kate) and fretless bass (Simon), they’ve also roped in Becky Taylor (whistles, uilleann pipes) and producer Alastair Artingstall (piano, organ, percussion) to flesh out the sound very occasionally and admirably selectively.
Album standouts for me were Kate & Jez’s rousing tribute to the trusty travelling players of old (Kingsmen), Simon’s wistful lament for those lost at sea (Neptune), and the two contrasting group compositions Another Year (which voices the perennial dilemma of what to say to an old flame) and Rockabilly Girls (a delectable toe-tapping pickmeup in the very best tradition). In a way, you could say The Mile Roses are following the Lindisfarne role-model in producing songs that are mostly infectiously upbeat, well singable and companionable almost to a fault. Fault? Well, perhaps in one or two cases the chorus seems to come round once too often and it kindof outstays its welcome – that’s treading the thin line between earworm and nagging – but hey, I’m splitting hairs here. The finale, Taking The Long Road Home, references the musician’s homeward post-gig journey, and, coming after parting-song Fare Thee Well, is the ideal live-set encore (and here, album closer), guaranteed to send you off with a smile on your face and a fond memory of time well spent in the genial company of The Mile Roses.
|Joana Serrat: Dripping Springs||Jon Boden: Afterglow|
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