Rawness meets polish on this striking acoustic songwriting outing.
The Rough & Tumble are a duo comprising spousal bandmates Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler. Plying their musical trade travelling the roads of America in a motorhome, their latest collection “Only This Far” draws on the many life experiences this has thrown up, but with lyrics that speak universally.
The first thing to note, is that although their style may be broadly described as acoustic folk with bluegrass overtones, that is really the least of it. The songwriting here spreads far and wide – yes, the joyful bluegrass sounds are prominent on tracks such as ‘Isn’t What I Thought’, while ‘Trouble’ has a hugely catchy cajun drive to it, with a broad smile of a lyric. There are plenty of acoustic songscapes that will pleasure fans of the likes of Nanci Griffith (for example, the very moving ‘Carry You’); while other songs have an elegance and emotional craft to the lyrics which stand shoulder to shoulder with master songsmiths such as Gretchen Peters or Guy Clark (check out the stunning ‘God of War’).
On top of all this, the music at times has a polish and sheen that sounds ready for FM radio; opener ‘Ain’t That the Way’ has a catchy chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on the pop charts, and is immediately followed by the Fleetwood Mac-like ‘A Little Less’.
Their voices blend wonderfully, perhaps unsurprisingly given the road miles (literal and figurative) that their musical journey has given them. Graham’s is perhaps the more distinctive, giving a real depth to some of the more intense moments, but equally able to harmonise beautifully with Tyler’s light tenor, which is full of subtlety and nuance. The harmonies are used relatively sparingly, but really soar when they do come together.
There is so much to love about this record, and really, The Rough & Tumble have created a collection that has a beautiful poise and balance to it. The bottom line is these are just quality songs, well written, well played, well sung and arranged, and a pleasure from start to end.