Simon Robinson (vocals/banjo/guitar), Naomi Moores (vocals/guitar/harmonica/clarinet) and Alice Phelps (vocals/double bass) are Redwood River Band. The trio released Brother Green which is a beautiful EP that showcases traditional folk that feels as timeless as the hills themselves.
The performances really capture the timeless quality of the songs. I loved the instrumentation but the vocal performances are really something special. They get going with the title track “Brother Green” which is an old American Civil War song, also known as The Dying Soldier. Banjo is the prominent instrument while Robinson’s lead vocals are hugged by Phelps and Moores. The double bass that arrives is warm and creates the pad around the music.
“Green Rocky Road” is a song co-written by Len Chandler and the poet Robert Kaufman. Moore and Phelps’ vocals are more prominent here. The vocals seem to arrive at perfect moments to harmonize with Robinson. The instrumentation is just so soulful bursting with melancholy and creates an unflinching sort of stillness when you are listening to it. I also have to mention that Donovan does a great version of this song.
“St James Infirmary Blues” is an American jazz song made famous by Louis Armstrong. The ladies take the lead and the vocal work is absolutely gorgeous. Their vocals are fairly subdued and stay in a very comfortable vocal range. The recording itself has to be mentioned as it catches all the nuances and feels like a very intimate performance.
“Glory of Love” is a Big Bill Broonzy cover and aligned with early jazz performers such as Django Reinhardt. The previous songs never feel that heavy but are emotional. “Glory of Love” provided a little bit of levity and more or less a perfect ending.
Maybe I’m just getting old but they really don’t make music like this anymore. There is just an undeniable pouring of the human spirit that seems to encompass these songs. I don’t know if Redwood River Band have originals as well as I only can find this release but I would love to hear them if they got them. Don’t miss out on these beautiful renditions of timeless songs.
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