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(Independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 5/14/2014)
The folk music scene back in 1960s led to the popularity of groups who emphasized vocal harmonies. There were dozens of them, including Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, and on into Crosby Still and Nash. But for a long period, that type of vocal harmony group fell out of favor on the commercial music scene, replaced by the use of background vocals behind a lead singer. But as an outgrowth of the roots music scene and the rise of folk-influenced music among younger performers and their fans, vocal harmony groups are on making a significant comeback. In this album review series, we have noted such groups as the Honey Tree, The Parson Red Heads, Busby Marou, Barnaby Bright, Dolly Varden and others. And among such groups there's nothing like the harmonies of siblings, who grew up singing together.
This week we have the excellent debut album by a family band who do great folk-influenced vocal harmonies, The Currys, and their CD is called Follow.
The Currys are two brothers and a cousin who grew up along the Florida Gulf Coast. Jimmy and Tommy Curry are the brothers, and they are joined by their cousin Galen Curry. The all play guitars and other folky string instruments. Galen also plays bass and some keyboards. The three Currys began performing as an acoustic trio in restaurants and the like in their home area. In addition to the folk influence, they also absorbed the pop-style harmonies of groups from back in the day, adding a bit of their own contemporary spin. They were eventually heard by country artist Billy Dean, who invited them to open for him at the Floria Folk festival. After gaining more attention, The Currys were booked for a tour of Ireland, where their music's style makes perfect sense. Their tour proved to be a success, and after returning, the trio decided to move to Virginia and expand the band to a quintet. The new members were drummer Johnny Humphreys and bassist Matt Kauper. In 2013 they raised money for making their debut full-length album by the increasingly popular method of web-based crowd-funding among their fans. They worked with producers Chris Keup and Stewart Myers and spent a month in the studio making Follow. The result is an impressive debut work by a group whose family ties are definitely clear in their vocals. The band's sound not-unexpectedly runs toward the folk-influenced with acoustic guitar being the dominant texture, but there is also a more expanded roots-rock type backing at times with some electric guitar, but that's about as far into electric territory the Currys go on their new CD. Lyrically, for all the upbeat-sounding music, most of the words are about relationships ending or sad love songs.
Follow opens with Wrecking Ball which epitomizes the Currys' sound. It's a little electric but is, what in a previous era, would have been called "folk-rock." <<>>
Another appealing song is the folkier-sounding Water from the Well. The piece may be more laid-back, but the Currys' vocal harmonies are at their best. <<>>
The Currys, who take joint songwriting credits on all the material, tend to like pieces in waltz time, which was rather common on the folk scene. On the album, those tunes can take on a bit of a country flavor. Big Cold Mountain is one of those tracks that is quite appealing, despite the bittersweet lyrics. <<>>
Rule of Desire is another song in waltz time that takes a more energetic approach with a similar lyrical mood. <<>>
The title track, Follow, is a short piece that is an impressive example of the group's vocals. It's almost choral with only a kind of drone instrumental backing, while the lyrics are about as upbeat as any on this album. <<>>
It's back to the sad lyrics about relationships pulled asunder on the song Inches from You. But the group's performance makes it all very appealing. <<>>
A small string section is brought in for a piece called Catharsis with more of the Currys' introspective lyrics. <<>>
The CD ends with its most upbeat-sounding track, Nothing Good which evokes a kind of hoedown sound but with more of the group's downcast lyrics, which center on regret on how one's life has gone. <<>>
Follow the new debut album by the Currys, is a great example of family vocal harmonies and how good they can sound with the right kind of folky material. Their album is an impressive one vocally, with a very appealing sound, which is a bit of a dichotomy with the mostly broken-heart lyrics. The musicianship and production are all quite tasteful and it's one of those records that could have appeared any time in the past four decades or more with its classic, and yet seemingly fresh sound.
Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus. The vocals are well recorded and there is a minimum of studio effects, except for the vocals on one track. But there is the usual dynamics-wrecking volume compression to make the record loud all the time instead of respecting the music's natural ebb and flow.
Whether you go back to the original days of the folk groups, or are riding on the crest of the wave of emerging folk-influenced harmony bands, the Currys' new CD Follow is a most worthwhile addition to the genre.
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