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Red River Dialect - awellupontheway

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Artist: Red River Dialect

Album: awellupontheway

Label: Lono

Review date: Jun. 27, 2012

When I last heard from David Morris, the singer-songwriter-guitar player behind Red River Dialect, he was cleaning up the mess left behind after he put up Arbouretum, Hush Arbors, Hiss Golden Messenger and Michael Chapman during a series of shared west U.K. shows. That’s good company, a sort of who’s who of muscular, psych-leaning, electrified folk music, and with his new album awellupontheway, Morris shows that he is perfectly capable of holding his own among them. Morris’s songs, eight of them here, take the lilt and roll of British sea chanties and blow them into amplified, feedback-droning, violin squalling anthems. This is, no kidding, one of the best folk-derived, psych-filtered rock albums of 2012, a great hoary rampaging beast of a record that rakes bloody, violent claws through the symmetries of traditional folk.

awellupontheway is Red River Dialect’s second album, but the first with a full band — Morris, guitar player Simon Drinkwater, bassist Jack Kindred-Boothy, fiddler/harmonica player Ed Sanders and Hugh Cowling on drums. (White Diamonds, the debut, had only Morris and guitarist Simon Drinkwater on it). Recorded mostly live, together, in a single room, the album has a hairy, headlong, ride-the-tiger feel to it, even its quieter moments prickling with suppressed tension. Wilder songs, the blues-swirling call to arms “Appleseed,” for instance, or the harmonica-howling, bass-bubbling “Cockerell f’the Moon” dance wild jigs round the edge of abysses. It’s a very good band behind Morris, a crew of rugged, free thinking individualists whose parts just mesh at the brim of chaos.

There are some very pretty, lyrical intervals, often at the beginning of songs, where Morris establishes a melody, chords and mood. Yet, the beautiful thing about this band is the way it builds on that foundation, adding heft and drama to fragile folk tunes. “Summers in Flight,” the album’s closer, starts in a late afternoon haze of jangle and squall, a little bowed bass and Morris’s supple, strident voice. The song begins as a personal rumination, one person’s nostalgia on a quiet, small scale. And yet, as it builds — Drinkwater adding layers of shimmering, glittering guitar effects, Cowling bashing slow crescendos on the drums and cymbals — the song turns from private journal entry to public monument. It is hard to say, exactly, when the transformation occurs, but what starts in a murmur ends in communal affirmation, large-scale, cathartic and universal.

And that’s maybe why David Morris belongs on the same stages as artists like Arbouretum and Michael Chapman rather than (or at least in addition to) picking up their empties and cleaning out their ashtrays. Like Chapman, he infuses traditional guitar blues and folk with a tetchy, raspy individuality. Like Arbouretum, he takes his tunes into overdriven, feedback fuzzed ecstasies. Unlike most folk rockers, he makes music that doesn’t simply replicate the past, but breathes fire and life into it. awellupontheway is, as the title suggests, a big step in the right direction.

By Jennifer Kelly

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