HOPE IN HIGH WATER – Bonfire & Pine (Fish Records FR01)

Bonfire & PineI haven’t heard Hope In High Water’s debut album, which is a great shame because Bonfire & Pine seems to be its mirror image. It bookends a two year period during which Josh Chandler Morris and Carly Slade quit their jobs and, to use a cliché from the 60s, got it together in the country. Their sound is mixed-Americana, employing all sorts of influences from blues to almost pure country. Josh plays guitar and Carly plays banjo and U-Bass (a hybrid baritone ukulele and bass guitar in case you wondered; I did). They share lead vocals and add support from drummer Darren Capp and the violin and percussion of Luke Yates. Carly has an amazing voice that suits their powerful sound really well.

The opening track, ‘Healed’ is the de facto mission statement of the album. Inevitably it has a hint of gospel about it but this isn’t the “hello sky, hello trees” kind of happiness. Hope In High Water are still on a journey but they have shed a lot of baggage on the way. ‘It’s Over Now’ has a rolling country feel but listen carefully and you’ll hear that there is a way to go yet. “Starting to feel that I’m feeling” sings Carly as she deals with issues of childhood trauma. The bluesy title track is about finding the life they want and not letting go of it and from here on they can start looking forward.

Of course, it’s not that simple and songs like ’Taken Too Much Pride’ and ‘Stronger Than You Know’ are still about getting shot of the past. They look outwards with ‘Grenfell’, the simple acoustic story of a woman trapped in the top of the tower oblivious to carnage happening below. Many writers would turn in an angry song here but Josh and Carly have written a song of sorrowful resignation which is probably more powerful for its quiet bitterness.

Bonfire & Pine is good listening and you can enjoy the rolling and rocking of the music at that level but listen to the lyrics carefully – and I can see why they are not included in the packaging – and you will get an entirely different perspective.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.hopeinhighwater.com

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