Review by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
WHEN RIVERS MEET – We Fly Free
One Road Records
Release Date 20 November 2020
British husband and wife blues rock duo Grace and Aaron Bond are When Rivers Meet, and announce their debut album We Fly Free will be released on Friday 20th November 2020. The first single Battleground will be released on 9th October and is now available from www.smarturl.it/whenriversmeet
There have been a number of really influential and successful gritty blues rock duos in recent years, and the Bonds have made a concerted effort to keep to a genuine and raw sound using authentic techniques, including tube tape echo and reverb chambers, which have created a live sound that keeps a truly vintage vibe.
Yes there is bit of The White Stripes and the Black Keys in here, as well as the heavy distorted guitar effects of Royal Blood, but while billed as a duo, this is very much a band, with Bass, Organ and Drums being integral to the overall sound, so that is how I will think of them. The other crucial element to the sound is the powerful, haunting voice of Grace Bond who takes most of the lead vocal duties, and comes across like a combination of Lzzy Hale, Alannah Myles and Beth Hart at times, providing ethereal harmonies to the stripped back songs, and a raw power and passion to the heavier parts of the album.
A driving fuzztone slide guitar riff opens the record on Did I Break The Law which starts out in a powerful swagger and then explodes after the chorus into a glorious set of powerchords, drums and soaring vocals. Now that is how to start your debut album – what a cracker of a song. Bound For Nowhere continues in much the same vein, with a deep thunderous riff underpinning the delicate melodic guitar line, with Grace singing in a deeper key for the chorus, and the bass and drums smashing out the beat.
A vocal masterclass with all of the interwoven harmonies is up next with Walking On The Wire, as well as multiple layers of guitars, and the ever-present pounding drums of Adam Bowers sitting behind the riff, who also produced the record.
After the opening barrage, I’d Have Fallen is a nice change of pace, with warmth and colour from the backing vocals, and a rootsy feel to the backing, and a beautiful little solo from some sort of stringed instrument to close it out. The new single is Battleground, and this brings a relentless intensity back with the guitars chugging on over the tom-toms, and Grace’s voice switching from the clean pure verses to snarling and spitting out the words, before the awesome power of the second half of the song which is just immense.
Kissing The Sky has a real retro classic rock vibe to it, with some progressive elements reminiscent of Kansas and Jethro Tull, but with a unique feel from the mandolin solo, played through a Marshall valve amp that provides a deep earthy tone. The earlier EPs from the duo had a folksier Americana feel to them, and Breaker Of Chains returns to that sound but with a darker melody, and Aaron taking the lead vocals, showing off a strong voice of his own, with Grace providing an effective counterpoint in the backing harmonies. The main guitar melody is dark and brooding, and provides the perfect mood for the moody lyrics.
A piano melody leads I Will Fight, which is a rollercoaster of a track featuring powerful vocals and a searing guitar solo, and a sharp change of mood in the stripped back vocal / piano duet of the chorus, before the wall of sound that follows, with multiple layers of backing vocals and Grace’s wailing voice scaling melodic peaks. Two contrasting voices, acoustic guitar and piano give a delicate feel to Bury My Body, and then the warmth of the harmonies in the mid-sections really lifts the song before the return to the quietness of the chorus and a distorted guitar segment to fade.
Aaron leads on Take Me To The River as well which gives a punchy slide guitar riff that hints of those early Whitesnake tracks driven by Moody & Marsden, and then flips out with some psychedelic mandolin lead breaks that give it a When River’s Meet signature. Penultimate track Friend of Mine features Double Bass from Robin Breeze and cigar box guitar, and is another dark melodious ballad full of atmosphere that has echoes of the 1930’s blues that is one of the duo’s key influences, but delivered with a contemporary twist.
Personally I would love to hear a bigger drum sound on the album, but I accept that the sound and feel of the drums does fit the overall blues-roots feel of the record, and generally works as a result, but on We Fly Free, which is a mix of Led Zeppelin heavy classic rock and evocative folksy blues, the drums play a really important part. This is 2 mins 40 sec of pure joy, with the song switching from sparse vocal and guitar, to mammoth hard rock riffage and back, and leaving you at a peak of excitement when the track suddenly finishes, and needing an immediate replay to fill the void.
There are two EPs available now, one of which you can grab for free from the website, and should provide a taster for the November release of this high-quality debut album – and as they are committed to live shows, no doubt they will be looking to tour this round the UK as soon as it becomes possible again!
Grace Bond – Vocals, Mandolin, Violin
Aaron Bond – Vocal, Guitar
Adam Bowers – Bass, Drums, Organ, Piano
Robin G Breeze – Bass, Organ, Piano
AVAILABLE ON CD, COLOURED VINYL & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM NOVEMBER 20th
PRE-ORDER FROM https://shop.whenriversmeet.co.uk