Far from Daylight, the new Album from Ireland’s The Blood Red Mountain Band has a problem and it’s not with the Music. As a reviewer I follow a process, I first listen to the music, pretty standard you would think, but it’s not always as easy as you would like to approach the subject with an open mind. For example if the band you are reviewing is established or you may know their work in some way, it is hard even as a reviewer to be objective and not bring any former opinions or even prejudices to bear upon your review. If you are unaware of the band, after your initial listen you do your research about the band and then start in on your review. I was lucky in the fact this was my first encounter with this band, it was a clean slate.
My circuitous preamble is an explanation important for what comes next. I listened to the Album, in depth, made my notes and then started my research on the band. And here I hit a snag. In the main I had enjoyed the Album, crystal clean production, nice harmonies, ‘Catch You When You Fall’ and ‘The Stars from the Main Street’ is a nice take on the Ryan Adam’s sound circa Jacksonville City Nights, main vocalist Mark Flynn firmly in the thrall of Mr Adams’s fragile, high wavering vocal style, the latter song tinged with with some excellent Celtic Fiddle playing to boot. I assume, Alison Byrne was the vocalist on ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’, it was reminiscent of the high peaks of Norah Jones’ career. Sophisticated and subtle. In fact many songs seemed to have their feet firmly placed in the Adams/Whiskeytown/Jones cannon, heartfelt ballads about lost times and lost loves. All good overall ‘Far from Daylight’ had a nice, if a little safe both lyrically and musically, clean New Nashville sound. Well played, well sung, a solid interpretation of their influences. It is truly Americana in the Western European sense.
And therein lies the problem. The Americana word. What is Americana? At its best it’s misleading, after all many things musical have come out of America. Well I suppose if you wanted to be especially cutting, it’s a genre of music so wide it encompasses all of the styles The Blood Red Mountain Band talk of in their press, but lacks none of the originality or interest of any of them. You see as I was saying at the start of this article the next part of writing a review is the research. And the research and reading of the press of this band gives a completely different impression to what I actually heard.
They are described as Country (ok so far) Soul (?) and Rock and Roll (?) sitting somewhere between Jack White and Arcade Fire. I find this perplexing, I mean are my ears that different to theirs I can’t hear these things? But on another level it’s a real shame, because if people hear your music after reading something about you they are going to be at best confused and at worst disappointed. As a band The Blood Red Mountain Band would do well to accept what they are and work with it. I hear no Country Soul of The Alabama Shakes or St Paul and the Broken Bones here, no gritty East Nashville sound possessed by Banditos? They are not a cutting edge Alt-Country indie act, there is no where near enough edge to their music for that. They have none of the undeniable cool of the genre hopping Jack White or even his reformed alcoholic brother in arms, Ryan Adams. Even though this record tries hard place itself alongside them. There is no Rock and Roll. They are not straight up 60’s/70’s honky tonk such as the Burrito Brothers or even a new take on it like The Most Ugly Child. So stop telling people you are, these comparisons are false and lazy, it just pisses people off.
This record is solid if not spectacular, but if you judge it through the lens of Norah Jones, Shelby Lynne, Gretchen Peters or even Lady Antebellum it is more honest. This is Celtic tinged Country Pop similar to many artists that have come out of Nashville of late. That’s not a bad thing, embrace it, it’s very popular and makes millions of people very happy. Be proud of who you are and the music you make.
Mark Flynn – Guitar, Vocals
Alison Byrne – Vocals, Oboe
Joeby Browne – Bass, Vocals
Sarah May Rogers – Violin, Vocals
Dave Keegan – Drums, Percussion