Monday, 28 July 2014

Red Molly - The Red Album Self Released

The Americana genre could well have evolved out of THE RED ALBUM by Red Molly. This potpourri of American roots music is wonderfully sang, exquisitely played and superbly assembled. It strikingly disproves the theory that different styles can be accommodated without being mastered. Listen carefully, which is mandatory, and influences of blues, rock, soul, jazz, country, folk, gospel and pop can be detected, all capturing the true spirit of Americana.

Red Molly has been in existence for ten years with the present trio being in place since 2010 when Molly Venter (guitar) joined Laurie MacAllister (bass) and Abbie Gardner (dobro). This latest release hit their home stateside market in late spring and gets its formal UK introduction on August 25. The added bonus for old and new fans alike is that the band are due to make their inaugural UK visit in October for a series of live dates and seal this welcome expansion into our market.

Produced in Nashville under the guidance of former Wilco and Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer, the girls have settled on a winning formula of eight originals and five covers of which the self writes match up exceedingly well against the more established numbers. The two most recognisable covers reflect the different ends of the folk spectrum as the works of Richard Thompson and Simon and Garfunkel are celebrated. Their version of ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ is long overdue for a band basing their name on a character from the lyrics and the bluegrass makeover with a stunning dobro intro does this destiny song full justice. ‘Homeward Bound’ is a conservative song to cover but a slight pause on the main chorus line and gorgeous vocals give this version credibility.

Photo by Whitney Kidder
Rather than dwell too much on the excellent covers, let’s focus more on the originals which have primarily come from the pen of Molly and Abbie. The record contains a pair of fantastic songs Abbie has written on the back of the Real Women-Real Songs project. ‘You Don’t Have The Heart For It’ is the Red Molly take on classic country and with stellar pedal steel, this tear jerker works to a tee. ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ is the other track, with a gospel flavour and inspirational qualities. Molly herself excels on three solo writing contributions including the rock n’ soul sounding ‘My Baby Loves Me’, ‘I Am Listening’ with its indie pop vibes and the tender harmonious ballad ‘Sing To Me’.

Several other key artists in the Americana world feature in the writing with Jonathon Byrd teaming up with Abbie to pen the jazzy blues sassy number ‘When It’s All Wrong’, while the Mark Erelli song ‘Pretend’ has all the show time trappings complete with brass. You won’t go far wrong with the inclusion of a Daryl Scott song and, with its excellent guitar accompaniment and folk Americana sound, ‘With a Memory Like Mine’ creates its own niche on the record.

Photo by Whitney Kidder
Hopefully by now the flavours of this record are starting to fill the air and the final three tracks to mention each make their own mark on the album. ‘Willow Tree’ is a co-write between Molly and Eben Pariser while another gospel influenced song opens the album in the A.J. Roach penned ‘Clinch River Blues’. Just when you think that the ‘a cappella’ style has been left out, the girls ditch the instruments for the final song and let their harmonies drool over ‘Copper Ponies’.

The excellent sleeve notes accompanying this release really help you understand what Red Molly are all about and extensive listens to THE RED ALBUM confirm why they are held in such esteem back in the US. This record is a joy to be acquainted with and the band’s long overdue venture into the UK market will be one of the autumn highlights.

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