‘Overground’ from Root and Branch - folk as it is known and folk as it evolves(August 29, 2015)
As long as new artists continue to flow into the folk stream the genre remains alive and well, it also exhibits a powerful vitality that reflects the increasing number of ‘young’ people immersing themselves in folk … both folk as it is known and folk as it evolves. Some of those falling into the continuance of tradition, both within existing heritage and inventive innovation are Root and Branch. Their debut EP ‘Overground’ explores the range of their music through the influence of tradition from Scotland, England, Ireland and North America. The band, in their own words ‘… brings together folk musicians steeped like teabags in traditional music …’
Root and Branch are Nathan Bontrager (cello, fiddle, guitar, vocals) Stuart Graham (bouzouki, tenor guitar, vocals) Chris Jones (tenor banjo, guitar, mandolin) Ewan Macdonald (fiddle, mandolin) and Jess Whelligan (cello, guitar, vocals). Their EP shows off their own compositions blended with those from tradition and noted composers. Its approach switches effortlessly through energetic jigs and polkas, Appalachian old-time and Highland reels. Although there’s energy here this is more than foot-stamping music, there’s also an English anti-war song and a finely delivered American love song.
The title lead track ‘Overground’ displays the composing skills of Chris Jones, ‘Poor Old Soldier (The Rogues March)’ equally demonstrates Stuart Graham’s inventiveness, Nathan Botanger and Ewan Macdonald join in the writing respectively with a fusion of old-time and origination in ‘The Road To Krk/ Reuben’s Train’ and the inspired mix of ‘Back of the Change House’, while Jess Whelligan’s voice breathes meaning into ‘The Blackest Crow’. As ever, my measure of an EP is does it leave you wanting more? The verdict? Absolutely, and let’s hope an album soon sees the light of day.
Find Root and Branch here: www.randb.org.uk
Review: Tim Carroll