The Rye Sisters “Distant Light”

Independent, 2023

A Joyous sophomore album guaranteed to banish the Mid-Winter blues.

artwork for The Rye Sisters album "Distant Light"The Rye Sisters are a duo from Lincolnshire comprising of Sue Pomeroy guitar and vocals and Ishani Siriwardena violin and vocals who first joined forces back in 2016. Brought together by a shared love of Americana music from both sides of the Atlantic their influences range from such luminaries as Buddy and Julie Miller, Gillian Welch and the Secret Sisters, to homegrown icons such as the late great Kirsty MaColl and Nancy Kerr. 2017 saw the release of their debut album ‘Brave Unbeaten Paths’,  which unveiled a fair level of promise from both the songwriting and excellent vocal harmonies though possibly betraying a slight lack of experience and uncertainty with the recording process. Since then, despite the restrictions caused by Covid, the duo have garnered a strong following on the live circuit across the UK and Europe which has undoubtedly helped to hone their skills. The resulting benefit of this is a wonderful sophomore album that is packed full of delightful gems, where strong songwriting combines with sublime vocal harmonies exuding a newfound confidence in the studio from a duo that would appear to have truly found their voice.

Produced by Roger Jackson, better known to many as a member of Robert Hithcock’s band The Egyptians as well as session musician for the likes of Crowded House and Paul McCartney, ‘Distant Light’, opens with ‘Stuck In A Jam’, which immediately highlights the close harmonies of the duo, Siriwardena’s sweet upper register blending seamlessly with the warmth and depth of Pomeroy’s delivery. As is the case throughout the album the song is subtly supported by an uncluttered arrangement that helps to keep the focus on the vocal partnership, occasionally conjuring up memories of The Roaches or even The Poozies in their prime. The quality continues with track two ‘It’s Just The Wine Talking’, the vocal prowess now wrapped around a lyrical intensity that mixes high drama with just a dash of satire highlighting the development of the duo’s songwriting craft. The delightful ‘I Could Be Anything’, follows with its infectious refrain underpinned by a wonderful violin accompaniment from Siriwardena who effortless infuses a blend of jazz and bluegrass to Pomeroy’s acoustic guitar on this folk-inflected number. The first single from the album ‘Capture The Moon’, is next up and here there is a subtle shift both in delivery and mood with the emphasis moving from the duo’s vibrant vocal harmonies to a more melancholic number that draws the listener in close with a poetic narrative of unrequited love delicately delivered. “I’ll always be here, right where you left me, here in the moonlight that fades so soon. But I’m always in a shadow, and boy you’re a dreamer, you’ll always step out to capture the moon”. ‘Dirt On My Guitar’, quickly lifts the tempo with its hoedown barn dancing instrumental break perfectly enhancing the positivity of the lyrical defiance, while ‘Waverley Station’, a co-write with Racheal Elliot Wood which, along with ‘Colder Sky’, that appears later on the album, offers a more reflective tone, with an ambience that is much more of these shores.

Towards the middle of the album comes an instrumental medley, starting with the seasonal ‘Christmas Eve Is Coming, Anna’, before leading into the traditional number ‘Cumberland Gap’. Here the duo get a chance to display their musical dexterity ably accompanied by Jackson who supplies accordion, mandolin and guitar throughout the album along with Andii Gosling on cello and banjo and Ben Somers on bass, and though thoroughly enjoyable in its own right in truth it feels a little out of step with the rest of the album. Having said that, collectively there is a perceptible range to the musical palette on show here, and though comparisons to established acts such as First Aid Kit, The Secret Sisters, and even Chris While and Julie Matthews are understandable the duo clearly have their own musical identity, more than capable of putting their collective stamp on other artists material. This point is amply demonstrated with their wonderful rendition of ‘The One I Love Is Gone’, a lesser-known song by the godfather of bluegrass Bill Monroe with its solemn plaintive narrative lending itself perfectly to the duo’s bittersweet delivery, and with ‘It’s My Lazy Day’, they manage to capture all the laidback humour of a song written by the country singer and comedic actor from the 1940’s, Smiley Burnett, whilst still creating a contemporary aura. Fittingly the album closes with the self-penned ‘Stand Still’, that is sung a cappella, exposing all the ethereal beauty and synchronicity of two voices seamlessly working as one, evoking a sense of spiritual healing that resonates long after the final notes have drifted into the aether. Simply stunning.

With ‘Distant Light’, the Rye Sisters have taken a major leap forward from their debut release, displaying a greater sense of maturity with their songwriting, vignettes full of intrigue and satire, heartache and resilience, exquisitely brought together with a mix of delightful melodies and breathtaking vocal harmonies, all of which should increase their growing popularity and help raise the duo’s profile to the next level.

8/10
8/10

About Graeme Tait 126 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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Alan Peatfield

Hi Graeme
Hmmm, interesting. When we saw them supporting the Mammals last April at Kirton in Lindsey, I thought they were very good. You commented you thought they were rather more than very good. Your glowing review of this album whets my appetite to listen sooner rather than later!