After the successful release of Anna Mitchell feat Some Rise Some Fall’s stunning cover of Funny Time of Year in January, the independent collective Some Rise Some Fall are set to unveil their eagerly awaited new album No Simple Highway on February 26th. Featuring renditions of re-inspired songs from the likes of Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter, Joanna Newsom, Beth Gibbons, Jimmy LaFave, Eilen Jewell, Country Joe McDonald. Roy Wood, Greg Trooper, David Ball, Jackson C and The Milk Carton Kids. These poignant recordings form the basis for an inspiring album that deals with the theme of grief and loss, with proceeds going towards Aware Ireland.
Director Michael Fitzgerald worked with each artist on their track selections to develop a theme for the album that is interwoven philosophically, while encouraging the freedom for the musicians to reimagine and evolve these songs with producer Brian Casey (Wavefield Recordings) providing a cohesive sonic texture throughout.
Opening with a modern re-interpretation of the 60s track Thought Dream, wrote by dynamic country revolutionary Joe McDonald. This track really sets the precedent and tone for the entire album. Anna Mitchell’s captivating vocals are drenched in melancholic tones that are cushioned by soft layers of percussion, bass and beautiful bright chord progressions that gradually unfold around this floating melody. A melodic, captivating and distinctive interpretation of a lost classic that keeps an almost dreamlike quality to it. Anna Mitchell carries four tracks on the album with Funny Time of Year, Fallen Leaves and The Rain Came, all conveying an atmospheric, emotional simmer of earthy sounds that adds a haunting allure to the record. The songstress is a standout on No Simple Highway, who encapsulates the album’s theme of loss.
Indie Folk band Rowan carry on the theme of grief with their take on the stunning Swansea by Avant folk artist Joanna Newsom. Leaning more towards the Bombay Bicycle Club melody, this track fits with the theme and production of the rest of the album. Anchored with a melodious repetitive piano hook, the band has reworked Swansea into more of a reflective ballad with a pot-pourri of guitar sounds that gradually builds around a soaring tender vocal melody that swells to an emotional climax. Their version of the timeless Years Gone By is just as tender, with Rowan crafting their cleanly sung harmonies around a raw rustic acoustic tone. The minimalistic nature of this rendition evokes the sense of loss and nostalgia that oozes from the original by the Milk Carton Kids.
Burrowing into the enchanting collection of the late Jimmy LaFave guitarist Kevin Herron treats the listener with his version of The Beauty of You. Herron recreates the track as a rich emotive ballad melding together a soft country shuffle with warm strings and rich mellow vocals that add a sprinkling of comfort to the meditative spiritual theme of the lyrics. The guitarist follows this up with a modern take of When the Thought of You Catches Up With Me honing in on his knack for delivering an exquisite nonchalant vocal melody with intricate guitar playing.
Choice Prize Award winner Marlene Enright takes a much more unique approach to Stella Blue by the Grateful Dead, with her ethereal airy vocals creating a compelling and distinctive sound. The songstress creates an entrancing interpretation that has a soft intimate tone to it, delivering a tasteful stylistic cover.
Acoustic folk artist John Blek brings his excellent musicianship to No Simple Highway, spoiling us with three performances on the album. With Biologically Blue the folk artist creates a refreshing poignant version of the track with a neat arrangement of just piano vocals and some subtle pickings of guitars that shyly interweave in and out. It’s a great take on the Greg Trooper song that captures the depth and emotion of the original. Bleks version of Blues Run the Game by Jackson C. Frank is just as mesmerising as the original with a dominant vocal performance that has a bittersweet sound to it.
With the last track, I Remember You Blek moves away from the smoky blues sound of the Eilen Jewell track. The folk artist rips this track apart using blistering bright guitar tones that are backed with a staccato plucked rhythm which contrasts with his gruff vocal delivery. Easily a favourite, it’s the perfect way to round up the album.
A magnetic rich tapestry of covers No Simple Highway perfectly expresses the raw emotional weight of grief, heartache and loss combining beautiful lush instrumentation with neat arrangements and some of Corks most talented artists that aren’t afraid to take on the roles of the birdsongs of grief.
The perfect nod to the legacy of some glorious music.
Check it out below!!