After a few releases spent toying with stripped down line ups, Tim Manning has once again gathered his three musical amigos around him to release a 6 track, full band collection of songs that goes by the name of The Point of No Return. It’s very easy for people to take a cursory listen to bands such as this, hear that Pedal Steel Guitar and just apply the term country with lazy journalistic nonchalance, or alt-country for those with a few Ryan Adams albums under their belts. But labels and pigeonholes are a bane rather than a boon to music reviewing, too loaded as they are with pre-conceptions and individual interpretation.
Yes, there is some obvious country influence at work and musically many of the songs do lean more toward a southern fried upbringing but songs such as Gideon and Mothers Day would have been just as at home at the beatnik Newport Folk Festival or the Newport, South Wales of their actual birth. And it is this blending of folk styles from both sides of the water than ensures the originality of the song writing, rather than the mere pastiche and ten gallon hat tipping that many British bands working in this area are happy to settle for.
Thankfully, the band avoid the usual clichés, they don’t bury their dog, no one is drinking a bottle of Jack and no one goes to The Big House, but whilst the lyrics often stray into the darker territory beloved of country musicians they tackle these themes with a pen dipped in the ink of a more palatable language – though the opening lines of the title track had me worried for a while.
Musically Blind River Scare seems to follow a template created by one of my musical heroes, Steve Earle. For whilst they are able to steer songs such as Could I be a Different Man down a very familiar hillbilly highway towards a looming Nashville horizon, there are detours taking in swaggering folk influences, melancholy blues and home-grown acoustica.
The chic term these days is roots music, which is a fair enough handle if you need one and these roots anchor the band somewhere just the other side of the mid-Atlantic ridge. As they say, east is east and west is west …but when the twain does meet, you get music as great as this.