Kelsea Burch and Matt Shea--the honeycreepers--have returned with their second disc. (We at Divide and Conquer reviewed their eponymous 2015 release disc.) Burch sings and plays bass; Shea handles guitar and shares vocal duties. For their second release harborless, the group took longer in the recording process (laying down tracks in such exotic locales as Australia, India, Costa Rica and Connecticut), and handled the production themselves.
They do a nice job with the production. Their music, as they say, “could be classified in the indie-folk genre.” The songs are mostly driven by the acoustic guitar and Burch’s strong vocals. Through their production work, they’ve added nice depth to the tracks with lots of small parts working underneath the main vocal and acoustic-guitar lines. Little guitar licks and effects abound--I particularly liked the volume-knob string effects on “Wild Lands.” The overall effect is more Americana/roots rock than coffeeshop folk. That said, there’s no drum kit to be found on harborless. Rhythm is handled by the acoustic-guitar plectrums, or the occasional hand-drum part, so the group isn’t fully over to the roots-rock side of the spectrum.
The lyrical themes on harborless contemplate wandering, longing and loneliness. As Burch sings in “California Sun”, “has living on your own ever really done you any good?” She is the lead vocalist (and her voice sounds terrific), but Shea adds his part, too. Their vocals are particularly compelling when they harmonize and duet (“Little Fears” and “Wild Lands”).
Musically, there’s coherence in the sound across the five tracks, but each has its own particular textures. There are nice guitar fills in “Little Fears” and a beautifully developed guitar counterpoint in “California Sun.” The organic-feeling percussion track on “Little Fears” was fun too.
The band knocks it out of the park on “Bird and the Stone.” It starts with a storm, and works into a darker track with gritty electric guitars underneath Shea’s fingerpicking. Shea’s parts evoked, for me, Lindsey Buckingham, especially when surrounded by Burch’s mystical vocals and the hand-drum percussion. The ninety-second coda, though, was my favorite stretch of the whole EP. Burch layers her vocals into tight multi-part harmonies, guitar leads weave in and out, and it’s all anchored by a ringing acoustic guitar pattern.
harborless is a worthy follow-up for the honeycreepers. They’ve done a nice job in the control room and have built some lovely, deeply-layered tracks. Folk and Americana fans, enjoy!
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