On which North Carolina trio Underhill Rose bring us their third offering, courtesy of a phenomenally successful fan-funding campaign in 2014 that bought in over $25,000. The faith shown in them by people prepared to put up, is, I'm delighted to say, totally justified. There was no fast-forwarding here. Eleanor, Molly Rose and Salley have written an album that feels like it was grown organically. There's an all-pervasive natural feel to each and every song. The production is also in keeping with that, allowing the songs to breathe and flourish without need for big bash style theatrics. There's a fresh, homespun atmosphere that draws you in and let's the music wrap it's metaphorical arms around you.
If ever there was a sound that defines the constantly changing definition of "Americana" per-se, then Underhill Rose have got a handle on it. Based upon a solid bluegrass-base with claw-hammer banjo a constant and welcome key constituent, there are hints of country, folk and blues floating in the air that enmesh with beautiful three part harmonies to create a sound that is as evocative of a genre of music as it's possible to create. Hats off to the girls for that achievement - but of course without songs then all would count for nothing. And this is where, for me, they score real big.
All the tunes, expect one, were self-written, and the ebb and flow of each song in relation to it's position on the album is a joy to the ears. There is no disjointed cack-handed egotistical jostling go-ing on over the course of "The Great Tomorrow". Just an album that you can simply sit down and listen to from beginning to end, and then in the silence after track 11, emit a becalmed "ah".
Opening track "Our Time Is Done" is a prime example of what Underhill Rose do so well. A simple, hook-laden chorus melody, underpinned with subtle banjo, carried along on the back of some exquisite pedal steel. They make it all seem so easy, but there's a consummate skill and talent at work for it to be so.
Their ability to conjure evocative imagery is a key ally to the music. "There's heat in the air tonight, with the smell of honeysuckle vines, driving past the Whispering Pines Motel", (Whispering Pines Motel), "When I die, wrap me up in cotton, bury me low in the ground so that I may be helpful to the worms and robins while my should takes its cosmic crown" (When I Die), and "When times are lean in the family, bills to pay, all us to feed, Grandpa does what he can do, puts food on the table with his special brew" (Shine) are perfect illustrations of how powerful the song can be when the two worlds of written word and music collide in perfect unison.
It's that joyous cocktail that makes "The Great Tomorrow" such a delight from start to finish. In todays day and age when so much music is released that in reality shouldn't really see the light of day, it's mightily refreshing (and almost a relief) to hear an album that bears repeated listening. The girls mission statement of "From living room to farmyard, six lane highway to red dirt road. We travel with the promise of bringing music from the heart" is on this evidence authentically true. Take that road with Underhill Rose and enjoy the journey.
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