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The Willows - Through the Wild (Elk Records)
It's difficult to put your finger precisely on what exactly constitutes The Willows' trump card, it could be any of a dozen things. Perhaps it's their excellent choice of material or maybe it's the cohesive nature of their arrangements. It could be the clever interplay between Ben Savage's informed Dobro fills and Cliff Ward's guitar and banjo work, or alternatively Katriona Gilmore's fiddle and mandolin playing. Personally speaking, any of these examples work equally for me, but I suspect what gives this band their winning hand, is the distinctly breezy voice of Jade Rhiannon Ward, immediately recognisable and quite possibly the jewel in their crown.
THROUGH THE WILD is the band's third full-length album release and features nine original songs credited to the band as a whole, together with an arrangement of the traditional The Lovers' Ferry, which features a fine vocal performance by Jade Rhiannon and some tasty slide playing courtesy of Ben Savage. Evan Carson's sheer command over all things percussion is very much in evidence on the driving Pearl Hart, which evokes all the excitement of its subject, the famed highwaywoman who went off to join Buffallo Bill's Wild west Show, whilst the band find such gentle and tender moments as Out of Our Hands and Dear Lily irresistible to play alongside the stompers. Bringing the band's rural Cambridgeshire into focus on such songs as Perfect Crime, False Light and Gog Magog, the Mark Tucker/Ben Savage production team have delivered a winner here.