Bonfire and Pine – Hope In High Water (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

‘Hope In High Water’ has a backstory that would suit a Hollywood movie, bored of their day jobs the duo decided to move to the country, live in a caravan and live the life they wanted to live. A life of music, connection to the great outdoors and pursuing a life with a little more substance than wondering what box-set to watch on tv that night. Obviously, it would help if one of them had a battle with addiction, maybe had an imaginary friend who was a dragon and the couple eventually sold out Madison Square Garden. Hollywood would soon come knocking and the band would be on everyone lips, but let’s not tempt fate.

As it is, the duo have written and released an album that is based around Americana with hints of something a little darker around the borders. It’s no surprise that both members – Josh Chandler and Carly Slade – were previously in punk bands, aside from the subject matter of some of the songs, the music often feels like it is a wobble away from drifting into punk or grunge. No bad thing, both genres happily question the status quo.

Chandler and Slade take turns in singing lead but it’s when the two voices are pitched together that the music really flies. We open with ‘Healed’ where the lyric “you told me I was the problem, that made me the solution” jumps out, it’s a nicely put together song, has a 90’s grunge feel to it as well as the country/Americana influence.

Slade comes to the fore in second track ‘It’s Over Now’, a bouncy country number, it’s a little ‘by numbers’ but it works, Slade’s voice has a country queen feel to it, strong with a vulnerability, you can imagine her appealing to the farmers of Utah, her voice blaring from the radio of a battered pickup truck or farm vehicle while the cap-wearing farmer sings along while he taps the steering wheel.

Where the album sits is tricky to say, it’s too country to be folk, perhaps not country enough to be Americana, but has a protest centre to it, it’s not songs about their favourite horse or the way the season change in the woods down yonder, so it sits nicely between genres.

‘Alone’ is my pick of the songs here, a patient banjo-led beginning opens to a fine violin part sounding like a song from the prairie, a song sung around the fireplace about the darkness. It benefits from Slade taking centre stage but allowing strong backing vocals from Chandler, the two work well together in unison.

Hopefully it’ll find an audience in different places because there is enough going on here to suggest the duo did the right thing by pursuing their musical goals.

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