Appalachia began their recording career with a live album and The Judgement is their first studio recording. Despite their name they actually come from the west of England and have been described as “bluegrass with a twist” which just shows how unhelpful musical labels can be.
All four members of the band: Richard Burley, Danny Ward, Doug Hamilton and James Slater, are song-writers and lead vocalists which makes for variety. The opening track, James Slater’s ‘Judgement Day’, has the feel of a southern gospel song reinterpreted by an acoustic line-up of The Band and is, for my money, the best song on the album. ‘The Icarus Farewell’, written by Burley, is a case of mixing mythologies – mingling a wicked mine owner, a prison break and ancient Greece – you can see where that came from. Danny Ward’s ‘Politicians And Bankers’ is … well you can guess what it’s about … but it’s clumsy when set alongside Show Of Hands’ ‘Ignorance, Arrogance and Greed’ say. Ward redeems himself with ‘This Train’, a blues boogie which references the Great Western Railway – the original, that is.
So, bluegrass? Appalachia use some of the vocabulary of the genre, upright bass, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and vocal harmonies. They don’t have a fiddle and they certainly don’t play at the breakneck pace usually associated with the genre. Listen around, though, and they are probably more authentic than Alison Krauss singing ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’. Labels – who needs them?
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