The Grahams recording journey across the Americana landscape began in 2013 thematically on the rivers before taking a significant leap forward a couple of years later when they hopped onto the trains. Now as we approach the two year anniversary of the initial release of GLORY BOUND, we find the project still has plenty of mileage left in it.The latest piece, and probably the final one, of the train jigsaw is the release of THE GRAHAMS AND FRIENDS (LIVE IN STUDIO) and an alternative take on the songs that have served this duo well as their career expanded. Essentially this thirteen song collection (fourteen tracks if you count the extra contrasting version of ‘Tender Annabelle’) is a return to the core songs of a project which also included a documentary titled RATTLE THE HOCKS and its subsequent soundtrack. The major difference, as indicated in the title, is the many collaborators that chipped in with the versions that make this later issue.
Obviously if you have already bought into the ideals of The Grahams then judgement on the overall worth of re-hashing the bulk of the material in a commercial format is entirely left to the individual and the degree of value that has been added. Alternatively if this is a premiere to their music then the release proceeds to be an excellent snapshot to how the modern day folk-Americana genre can take a dip into the past, polish it up and present a highly distinguished body of work. Essentially it doesn’t matter when you hitch a ride on the back of The Grahams' journey, the main thing is that you don’t let it race away into the distance without some acquaintance.
For the notebook The Grahams are husband and wife team Alyssa and Doug. Meeting and inspired from a young age, they have sought out the roots of American music taking in many things from Dylan to Guthrie along with much in between. Alyssa is the vocal powerhouse of the duo and breathes incredible life into the story songs which often trace this calling to ensure the psyche of the past lives on. The instrumental sound is what you would expect, heavy in an acoustic direction and not afraid to throw many curve balls into the mix from this perspective. What is evident in this collection of mainly original compositions is the ease that they escort the listener on board and ensure a memorable listening experience.
In order to market these cut versions, it has been necessary to highlight the collaborators in a direct manner from the cover, title and blurb. The one that jumped out straight away was the John Fullbright input on ‘Tender Annabelle’, and that of one of American music’s most distinctive singer-songwriter voices over the last few years. This is closely followed by the contributions of Sean and Sara Watkins on the album’s signature track ‘Glory Bound’, very much the pivotal point of the whole project.
While Kenneth Pattengale from The Milk Carton Kids on ‘The Lonely Ones’ as well as David Garza and Susan Choffell on the spiritual beast ‘Mama’ make further significant contributions on this release, the overall vocal vibes are almost entirely owned by Alyssa. Outside the duo’s writing circle they featured Alejandro Escovedo’s ‘Broken Bottle’ and what American rail road inspired project could leave out a version of ‘City of New Orleans’. This choice being a boisterous one packed with rolling percussion and added horns. One of the tracks that garners particular appeal is the excellent ‘Lay Me Down’ complete with a hook part on the chorus that massages the ear upon each listen.
The Grahams have created a space in the market for this record and a forthcoming UK tour includes an airing of the documentary alongside a Q and A session in support of the main gig. Projects like this are integral to roots music and when done to such a high level make for an engaging listen.
The Grahams · February-March 2017 UK Tour
with screening of their award-winning documentary short Rattle The Hocks and Q&A
Wed 22 Sheffield The Greystones
Thu 23 Shrewsbury Henry Tudor House
Fri 24 Bury The Met, Studio Theatre
Sat 25 Liverpool Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Music Room
Sun 26 Gateshead Sage Gateshead, Northern Rock Foundation Hall
Tue 28 Settle Victoria Hall
Wed 1 Newbury Arlington Arts Centre
Thu 2 Fareham Ashcroft Arts Centre
Fri 3 Salisbury Salisbury Arts Centre
Sat 4 Leeds Seven Arts Centre
Sun 5 Bristol The Lantern
Tue 7 Shoreham Ropetackle Arts Centre
Wed 8 South Woodchester, nr. Stroud The Convent
Thu 9 London Kings Place, Hall Two