Spring is always such a great season for good folk music. The Gillies are a lovely folk/ Americana group hailing from London and I was gifted with taking a look at their new album No Hiding Place. When I speak of spring, I don't mean the full bloom phase. I'm speaking of the thaw, where the sun may be out longer, but I can still see my breath in the chilly air. Folk for me is always at its best when it presents the dichotomy in life. The bitter with the sweet, and on that note, No Hiding Place really takes flight. The album is timeless as it unfurls into a sweet and very real and intimate journey.
Right away I was enchanted by the stunning vocals of Susan Turner. Her voice is the stuff of icons. She is understated in her delivery, but she packs an earth shaking wallop. Turner is only one half of the equation. There is her partner in this dulcet sounding crime, Mark Evans who offers up lovely vocal backup from time to time. The two combine their bare bones guitar work to paint these sprawling landscapes of emotion, experience and nostalgia. Their specific sound is achieved by combining a steel strung and tenor guitar. It's a sound that is distinctive, and my one wish for the album is to have that guitar take more of a walk. I would love to hear these two really flex their finger muscles and showcase more of their musicianship.
Everything about the album is thick with narrative and sentiment. These two have so much between one another and so much to share. They are not afraid to air out all of their laundry, the dirt, the stains, the rips and the fraying. The stories they tell are raw, no editing, no glorifying, just everything that memory can provide. However everything is delivered with a very genuine demeanor of peace and acceptance. I think this is what makes this album so poignant for me. There's a lot of tough lessons here, but they have long since been learned. However I never got the sense that they feel they have seen it all. There's a fear in there that suggests there will always be the unknown.
This album was clearly engineered to feel like a private and personal experience. I could feel the atmosphere change when I started listening to the album. It's an engulfing experience. The album was a home recording project done in several locations with the ideal acoustics. They were armed with Pro Tools as they attempted to tame that J45 guitar. For finishing touches and mixing, they turned to a fellow musician, Dan Wilde and Gladeside Recordings. I can't stress enough how perfectly the treatment was for this album. This wasn't a project that needed a heavy handed touch. It's everything I didn't hear and everything that didn't get in my way that makes the engineering so commendable.
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