That headline sounds as if they planned a surreal sentence that susurrates (Tiffany Aching’s favourite word in Discworld novels) with onomatopoeic resonance…either that or I’m talking spherical objects yet again!
Although the album came out last year, such was the well-deserved attention for wife and husband duo, When Rivers Meet, that we at Bluesdoodles waited until it all died down; until this fabulous album had time to soak into every pore before we shared our thoughts and feelings…indeed now, We Fly Free.
This album defies the term ‘debut’, such is the professionalism, mature compositions and instrumental skills, you’d think they’d been doing this for ages…yet Grace and Aaron Bond have risen to wide attention from the first EP in 2019 to this tour de force in 2020. The music herein is a wonderful melange of 70s rock and blues from every era; the 20s through to the present day and, if you haven’t heard it yet, one listen to the outstanding opener, Did I Break The Law, will convince you…if not, Specsavers do hearing tests too!!
It subtle fade in leads into a great, traditional blues beat and the slide riff is class and classic; the vocals also capture your attention immediately with the range, expression and power. The drums and occasional key washes help, but the slide is the star as Grace does just that with every word, phrase and ‘yeah’.
Bound For Nowhere has a pulsing bass and drum after a sweet picked guitar and vocal intro: then a rock riff bites hard and alternates with that lovely picking…the lack of a solo is made up for by the shiver-inducing vocals. Walking On The Wire is a vocal duet pitched perfectly by Grace and Aaron and backed by a blues-rock beat and delicious slide on both the guitar and the mandolin… a pity they didn’t take turns on solos of at least an hour in duration…each!
I’d Have Fallen slows the pace with a soulful vocal over a complex mandolin and guitar backing with really clever, almost disjointed but fitting percussion. Although true of all the songs, this needs close listening as the layers are diverse, brilliant and, like the lyrics, have such depth. Oh, and the guitar piece at the end should have been longer.
Battleground is more quality blues rock with an enthralling vocal melody carried beautifully. Kissing The Sky is next and isn’t Hendrix: it’s a multi-layered song with a cracking bass line, subtle keys, great riff, great vocals and a spacey, phased slide solo that is genius. Breaker Of Chains has Aaron on the lead vocal to add the melodic grit with Grace on harmony to accompany the picked blues. Instrumentally it has so many textures that keep revealing themselves with every listen…guitar, mandolin, violin combine majestically.
I Will Fight has a fragility in the gentle slide and piano with emotional and atmospheric vocals reflecting on the sacrifices made in the great wars…the slide solo weeps for them too. Bury My Body is suitably funereal; Morricone would be exceedingly jealous as the whistling intro leads to piano/acoustic backing a lovely vocal duet…the outro is with waiting for too as the phasing sounds a bit off-kilter at first but it fits. Take Me To The River is Aaron on lead again on a classically structured but the original slide is driven blues rocker with slinky slide delighting behind the melody and the solo…perhaps a bit short!
Friend Of Mine is a slower blues with a tantalising picked and slide intro and backing to another emotional, powerful and moving vocal from Grace, with the ominous tympani sound adding drama. The final and title track is heavy, touching on psyche blues and is so clever in the construction with light, dark and every shade in between. No solo, but a superb way to end a superb album.
Already aware of this superlative slice of British blues, I hope you agree with my analysis; if you haven’t, then you need to buy it now!
If all goes to plan, and the covid crises pass, then we can see them live supporting King King across the UK in October 2021…fingers crossed. Their website also promises that, in Spring 2022, When Rivers Meet will embark on their debut UK tour as a five-piece…even better news for surely live music will be back by then.
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws: A Stupendous collection of original, varied and exquisite takes on our beloved blues with just the right amount of quality rock injected to great effect.
Did I Break the Law
Bound For Nowhere
Walking On the Wire
I’d Have Fallen
Kissing the Sky
Breaker of Chains
I Will Fight
Bury My Body
Take Me To the River
Friend of Mine
We Fly Free
All songs by Grace and Aaron Bond
Grace Bond: vocals, mandolin, violin
Aaron Bond: vocals, guitar
Adam Bowers: bass, drums, organ, piano
Robin G Breeze: bass, organ, piano
Recorded at Boathouse Studio, Suffolk
(iTunes (can’t get used to its new name) delivered some White Spirit; the Hartlepool band that featured a pre Gillan and Maiden Janick Gers and I had the privilege of seeing supporting Gillan in Middlesbrough Town Hall…their only album was self titled and I listened with nostalgic pleasure to Cheetah.)