One of the great things about the Weeping Willows’ sound is that their voices seem almost unexpected: strong, direct instruments that command the listener’s attention and then don’t let it go throughout the ten tracks on their new album, Before Darkness Comes A-callin’. And by ‘unexpected’ I mean that once they start singing it sounds like nothing else you’ve heard, which is automatically intriguing.

There’s also not a single trace of sentimentality or sap in those voices or the songs they sing, which means this is not an album for lightweight listening: it leaps out of the country music traditions that have influenced it and asks that the reader commit to it as wholeheartedly as its creators have.

Laura Coates and Andrew Wrigglesworth are the Melburnians who make up The Weeping Willows. Coates has a voice that could just as easily be turned to torch songs and Wrigglesworth has a distinctive sound that is quite different to Coates’s, in a very good way: to have two similar voices would reduce the effectiveness of each. Together they form a feminine-masculine balance that brings out the best in both.

Many of the tracks are short, effective productions, as befits their style. However, at the core of the album is the long poem ‘Travellin’ Man’, a wistful dance between Coates and Wrigglesworth, that creates a clever change in pace for the album.

The Weeping Willows work within an active, and eclectic, country music community in Melbourne. One of the best things about the wave of relatively new acts who are emerging from this community (and elsewhere) is the way they honour the lineage of the musicians who came before them while finding ways to communicate tradition to a modern audience. Before Darkness Comes A-callin’ is a country music album in the very best sense. Accept no substitutes. 

Before Darkness Comes A-callin’ will be released on 8 April 2016.