17 April 2016

Mulholland - North Country

Seems that some people are reading the blog - thank you one and all.  After I posted my review of 'Ballad of Bones' EP by Driven Serious (cleverly linked here), Mulholland got in touch.  Now I know both of these band are going to be playing the Folkish Explosion gig in Newcastle upon Tyne on May 7th 2016 (link to the Facebook page for the gig here), so I guess there was a natural reason for them getting in touch.  But enough about promoting a gig I am not involved in and such things, time to look at Mulholland themselves.  Mulholland are a husband/wife duo Stan Smith and Ann Dunford who are based in York, Yorkshire, UK; this is their debut album which was released on Good Friday, 2016.  It is an album which the band state has been influenced by the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Laurel Canyon and Jason Isbell, with the album being the result of six months of work with Vinnie Whitehead (of Vinnie & The Stars).  It is a while since I have reviewed an album from this genre, but I am curious as to how it will sound - time to find out what 'North Country' sounds like......

The album starts with "Cold Wind" which is a gentle ode to wanderlust that is not satisfied due to staying in one location which is close to the heart, it is a gentle nature at its heart as it plucks at your heartstrings as well as your soul.  The playing is expertly crafted and it is a subtle opening to the album, it does not explode to life straight away but it does not start off sluggish or boring - it is a good opening for the alternative country album.  The second song on this album is called "Black Feathers" which reminds me of a band called the Red Letters, it is another gentle number that focuses on the story with the instruments keeping the song going, but in the background and not intrusive at all.  Whilst it might seem a little too quit, it speaks more with a little than some bands do with a thousand notes.  "My Wasted Heart" is a travelling love song, there is a journey at the centre of this song (be it emotional or physical) as the music moves with the spirit of freedom that is the wish of most people.  It is the first song that has percussion on the album, a gentle pattern which gets the foot tapping and the sound of the banjo drifts over the audience, it is a song that talks about the journey and the yearning to reach a loved one (and by default, home).  It is a beautiful number; it has a homely feeling that thrives in this sort of music, making the audience feel at ease and making them feel like they are on the journey as well.  The halfway point is marked with “So Sorry Blues (Revisited)”, this song reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan from the beginning with a hint of “Like A Rolling Stone” to the music.  This tale of a poisoned relationship is another number that is very gentle on the ears and soul, it is an easy song to like and I also feel it might be one that drifts past people as well.  For me, it is a decent number but not the strongest song from the band on this album.

“Shifting Sands” kicks off the second half of this album with a tune about living on the coast and missing a loved one.  It is a song that has been done so many times before hand, it will be done a thousand times more and a few more times after we have left this mortal plain.  I like this song, despite it not being to my usual taste; I think it is due to the fact that it is such a simple and beautiful piece of music that it shines like a star on a dark night.  “Summertime” is a song about that time of year when the days are warm, everything is brighter and the world seems so good.  But the summertime is also a place in your heart, that is shared with a loved one and that emotional attachment can make the sun appear.  It is a good song with a lovely feeling on home, but it also feels like it needs a little bit more to some parts of the song to these ears.  However, that is just a personal taste and does not take away from this song and the beautiful sentiment behind the lyrics.  The penultimate song of the album is called “Don’t Let Us Get Sick” which is not on any of the streaming services for some reason, it is a number that deals with the frailty of the world, enjoying the company you are with and hoping that things will change.  It is a fine song, one of the best in my opinion as it warms the heart with the music that speaks through the ages.  I cannot help but enjoy it, with that subtle playing and feeling that you are home.  What is there not to like with this song?  Ending the album is “Highway 101”, which bring the album to a stomping end with this song about travelling the opening roads.  It is a great song for me, it sounds like the party is just being and not comes to a finish.  It is my favourite song of the record and end it on such a high point.

Mulholland have created a subtle album, a gentle work that is as gentle as a breeze and as welcome as the warmth when you come out of the cold.  It wears its influences on its sleeve, but there is something more going on here and the talent shines through.  It might only be eight songs long, but it is the right length to me; there are a few moments that I would have personally tweaked, but I am not the musician here and for what it is worth – I reckon this is a very good release which should do well for fans of country and alternative folk.

7.5 out of ten
This is good and worth checking out.

Top track
Highway 101

You can purchase North Country on Amazon here.

You can visit the Mulholland website here (you can also purchase the album on this website as well).

You can follow the activities of Mulholland on Facebook here.

You can stream North Country (minus "Don't Let Us Get Sick") on Spotify here.

You can stream North Country (minus "Don't Let Us Get Sick") on Deezer here.

You can stream North Country (minus "Don't Let Us Get Sick") on Tidal here.

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