A new name to #TEAMw21, but about to release their second album are The Coaltown Daisies, an acoustic duo who promise dynamic, folk, soul and americana music, and with this album, 18 months in the making, distilled into 10 tracks, they have well and truly delivered. It is a record that invokes the likes of Gillian Welch and Steve Earle and is a delight from start to finish. With testimonies from the likes of Glenn Tilbrook and Boo Hewerdine this was always going to be an album that was potentially going to have a lot to offer.
"This Road" sets things off in style with a mixture of guitars, banjos and mandolins and in the background a harmonica whaling like a far off steam train whistle. The musical intro leads into a strident vocal "I was born on the river, I have sailed many seas". Two minutes in and the pace picks up to a gallop and a minute later it speeds up again. With vocals beautifully layered, this is an early statement of intent.
"52 Reasons" cleverly takes its lyrical cues from a pack of playing cards It opens with menace like the build up to a wild west shoot out, before asking a number of card related questions, "If you were the joker baby and I was your magic trick" for example and then roars off like an express train as the tempo is upped considerably, with the fiddle and harmonica taking front stage behind a driving drumbeat.
A gentle guitar opening then leads into "Footprints (In The Sand)", it soon becomes a delightful crossing of vocals and fiddle backing, building sonically layer upon layer to impressive effect,
The quality never drops and with "The Brave One" the lyrics paint a quite harrowing picture of domestic life where "the photograph lays broken where you threw it on the ground" and of someone prepared to leave it all behind. Emotionally brave and honest this is unflinching in its subject matter and yet exquisitely beautiful in the instrumentation.
It is an a capella intro for "Hangman", which in comparison to the earlier tracks is relatively sparse in terms of instrumentation, initially only having a guitar and drum. It soon builds in volume into something of a hoe down. Despite the title it does somewhat lighten the atmosphere after the intensity of the previous song.
It's a brief respite as the next song brings mental welfare to the forefront in the shape of a woman pondering why she is unable to cry tears - always traditionally seen as the emotional release and the start of the road to recovery. Her situation is then seen through the eyes of associates, her husband oblivious, sees no problem, her Doctor sees it as a medical problem, while her concerned friend sees it as an alternative to excessive drink. The song then slows almost to a halt as we return to the person at the start of the song defiant or possibly in denial "Why should I listen to what you say? - I keep my cheeks dry I like it that way". This is quite a theme to get across in a 3 minute song, yet the Coal Daisies successfully pull it off with an upbeat tune to boot!
"Battle Hounds" is an effortlessly likable tune, with its opening vocal refrain repeated throughout the song and with the overlapping vocals taking it to another level. At the heart of it a declaration of true friendship "I'll be right by your side, when the battle hounds are calling and the lights are going out, I know we can make it out of here"
A theme running through the album is mental health and "The Unravelling" really lays it on the line, "I'm unravelling before you and you can't see the threads" going on to paint a fairly brutal picture "I'm unravelling the years gone by undoing what you've said". The tune is delicate and soft but there is no escaping that the words are hard hitting perhaps subliminally the best way to get the message across.
The mood then seems to lighten with the uptempo shuffle of "Little Jane", but don't be fooled, the cheerful tune is sucking you in only to later hit you by the strength of the lyrics. the album closes out with "I Went Down", a final high tempo burst of mandolins, fiddles and crossing harmonies all going to make a cracking tune.
A collection of tunes that are frankly inescapable and impossible to dislike, married to beautiful harmonies and lyrics that at times will give you pause to stop and think. It comes with absolutely no fillers, given the chance this record could fly off the shelves - so go and "Listen".