Winter Wilson’s eighth album, Far Off On The Horizon, does not do showy or flashy. It just calmly and confidently insinuates its way into the “it’s a keeper!” section of the CD collection, song by well-crafted song.
And each song is most artfully put together with thoughtful lyrics and fully-formed melodies, gently reinforced by sympathetic vocal and instrumental arrangements. It’s a real credit to Winter Wilson, especially songwriter Dave Wilson, that there’s an established, familiar, even lived-in feel to the tracks, a feeling that some of them could be centuries old already.
Yet, with tracks also dealing with topics such as Australian weather, migration and homelessness, the subject matter is often bang up to date. Avoiding straying into preachiness, the result is an album of very naturalistic yet utterly contemporary folk laid over a solid spine of social conscience.
Rather cannily, the album was written, recorded, produced and released to coincide with the duo’s tour with the legendary Fairport Convention (on now, don’t forget your tickets). Given such tight time pressure, it’s all the more remarkable that the result is a genuinely solid album without flab or filler.
Opening – and title – track ‘Far Off On The Horizon’ sets a melancholy mood, with some gorgeous harmonies underscored by Marion Fleetwood’s delicate strings. On ‘The Ship It Rocked’, Fleetwood lends a far more angular counterpoint to a fretful sailor’s tale.
Migration comes in different guises, from a sorrowful family parting in banjo-led ‘Grateful For The Rain (Billy Boy)’, to the poignant and highly topical ‘I Cannot Remain’. Despite its traditional feel, it’s as currently relevant as can be (reducing this listener to furious tears). ‘Ghost’, a moving observation on homelessness and the ease of slipping between society’s cracks, is another openly political/socially aware track.
But what really stands out throughout all these songs is the deep vein of empathy. From ‘The Old Man Was A Sea Dog’, Wilson’s touching tribute to a difficult relationship with his father, to the tragic loneliness of ‘St Peter’s Gate’, the anti-materialism of ‘What Can I Do To Make You Happy?’ and the lingering, regretful ‘When I First Met Amanda’, even the tartest observations are made with a kindly eye.
Kip Winter’s strong and characterful voice slips easily into blues and country-tinged tracks like ‘The Freo Doctor’ and ‘Tried And Tested’ and final track, the striving, uptempo ‘Hard Walkin’’. Having worked hard at turning a mid-life redundancy into an opportunity, it’s perhaps it’s not surprising that Winter Wilson choose to sign off with such a philosophy of optimism after leading us over some tough emotional ground,
Far Off On The Horizon is Winter Wilson’s third album as full-time musicians and can surely only cement their rightful position as songwriters and performers at the forefront of contemporary traditional music.
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Artist website: winterwilson.com
‘Far Off On The Horizon’ – live in the studio: