A full declaration of bias is required before I start this review: I love harmonies. Two voices, three, four – a hundred – any harmony is a good one (this may or may not be due to the fact that I listened to a lot of ABBA when young). What we don’t often hear a lot of in country music is male-female harmonies – and they are a welcome sound on Till the North Wind Blows by Melbourne duo The Weeping Willows, who are Laura Coates and Andrew Wrigglesworth.
In the past I’ve remarked that there is a strain of ‘old-timey’ country music coming out of Victoria – quite different to what’s being written and performed elsewhere in the country – and The Weeping Willows certainly honour the traditions of country music while offering a fresh take on it. The stories they tell fit into the canon but the way they are told belongs entirely to the Willows and the interplay of baritone and soprano voices.
I probably rattle on a bit too much about production but it is so important to how an album turns out – in the case of this album, the way the album has been produced and recorded allows the two voices to come very clearly to the fore without obliterating the clean, perfectly played accompanying instruments. Good production identifies and draws out what’s important in a song: in the case of The Weeping Willows, the singers’ voices are the absolute key to conveying the stories and connecting with the listener, and they have been allowed to shine here. Andrew’s rich baritone is a beautiful complement to Laura’s wistful, occasionally aching soprano.
This is a smart album that doesn’t wear its smarts on its sleeve – there is knowledge and experience here, awareness of and respect for tradition, and talent too of course, but none of that is held up as a reason to listen. Instead, it is folded into the individual jewels that are the eleven songs that make up the cohesive whole.
You may not know anything about the history of country music – nor any wish to – and you don’t need to in order to appreciate what The Weeping Willows achieve here: an album that seems to belong simultaneously to another time and now. Till the North Wind Blows shows how tradition can be contemporary – that the past is never past but has much to offer us in the present day. Stories never lose their relevance, and nor do storytellers. The Weeping Willows give us intriguing, heartfelt stories offered in a particularly enjoyable way.
You can buy Till the North Wind Blows from The Weeping Willows at www.theweepingwillows.com.au