The married singer songwriter duo Nate and Stephanie Esau are the founding members and principal songwriters for the Vancouver based folky and Americana influenced Coalmont. The five songs on their debut EP Chronicles, are very much odes to lost loves. This may have something to do with the fact that the couple did not get together until nearly four years after meeting. Upon the couple’s first meeting, Nate had inquired after Stephanie to see if she was available, only to be shot down and sent away.
So it is no surprise that nearly every song has that heartfelt melody to it, the sad and slow twang of the banjo strings which tug at the listener’s heartstrings. And another not so surprising thing about Chronicles is that given Coalmont’s influences which include bands such as The Civil Wars, Johnny Cash & June Carter, Fleetwood Mac and Mumford & Sons that these influences have worn themselves perhaps a bit too deeply into the fabric of Coalmont’s songwriting process, which after a while becomes astoundingly clear.
But this is not technically a hindering factor for listeners who are big fans of the folk and Americana genres or any of the aforementioned bands. This is because from a technical standpoint Chronicles is classic Americana, subtly beautiful instrumentation, with storied lyrics, peopled by characters that are at an impasse in both love and life. In this way Chronicles takes on a double meaning as the album acts as book of musical short stories.
For live performances, Coalmont often performs as just a duo with the absence of a backing band leaving just Nate on banjo and Stephanie on accordion to provide the instrumentation. And often times folk and Americana sound better the more stripped down the instrumentation is. I could see this working especially well for the pair, because their voices blend together as sweetly as any two I’ve ever heard.
However it is a little disappointing that the rather large backing band, which includes, bass, steel guitar, electric guitar, cello, piano and xylophone is largely I feel underutilized, on Chronicles. I felt they could have been more utilized if the couple wrote a few more upbeat songs, which would help to broaden their sound a little bit. They get close on the beautiful and sweeping epic, “Rivers Rush.”
There is nothing wrong with an album full of well-crafted sad songs if you are a lonely singer songwriter type. Though if you choose to take on a more expansive genre, such as folk and Americana, it seems to me that you need to draw elements from a broader range of that genres expanse, especially if you have such a large group of well-trained musicians to play on your album. My only advice for a full length is pretty simple; now that you got the girl, maybe write a few more happier sounding songs. That being said Chronicles is an exceptional EP and highly recommended
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