Gentle Americana-tinged folk from Wallingford based Band of Hope.
‘Thin Places’ is the second album release from Wallingford-based Band of Hope. Featuring the songs of vocalist and guitarist Tom Crook, with vocals from Crook and Amy Roy, this is a gentle collection, more folk than Americana, but with Americana flavours added by Matt Allwright on pedal steel. The band line-up is completed by Paul Whitty on keys, Ben Smith on violin and mandolin, Drew Milloy on bass and Sarah Morgan on drums, with Smith and Whitty on backing vocals and the album was recorded by Pete Brown, son of rock and roll singer Joe Brown, at Henwood Studios, Oxfordshire.
Well regarded folk singer and musician Jackie Oates features on two tracks, ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘Keep My Love’, the former also features ‘found sounds’ of lapping waters and seagulls, recorded at Brightlingsea Creek in Essex, in a folky tale of loss at sea, “From the lighthouse I will look out/ on a dark and stormy sea/and I will watch them from the lighthouse/as they sail your body home back to me”.
Opening track ‘Miss Your Ghost’ sets the overall tone of the album, with a relaxed mid-tempo feel, augmented by fiddle and somewhat reminiscent of early era Brinsley Schwarz. Although atmospherically delivered, the vocals, which feel closer to a shared harmony than a lead vocal with backing vocals, lose some presence and blend a little too much into the instrumental track to allow the lyrics to shine through.
The title track ‘Thin Places’ has a more full-on riff-based intro, but again the vocals lack the prominence that would give the song the energy it deserves.
A happier marriage of folk and Americana is struck on ‘Debt of Old’, where a sustained drone note contrasts with pedal steel and fiddle, over an insistent drum beat, with Crook’s vocals more prominent in the mix.
‘Up on the Clumps’ is a down-tempo number, with prominent pedal steel, and a refrain “And we stayed up all night/with no sleep at all and from up on the Clumps/we watched the cooling towers fall” taking us to the demise of the Didcot Power Station towers.
‘Keep My Love’ features a fiddle-driven intro and Hammond-style keys from Whitty echoing Bob Andrews’s key role in the sound of the afore-mentioned Brinsley Schwarz.
The album closes with ‘Maybe I Was Right’, with acoustic guitar and vocals from Crook, simple but effective, and with vocal style here almost in Brit-Pop territory.
An easy listen overall, it will be interesting to see whether future releases build on the Americana flavours.