Nick Edward Harris could not be faulted for lacking a commitment to his music. A few years ago he quit his job and moved to New Zealand to focus on honing his craft and scraping a living by busking. For The Tall Trees, his second album, Harris’ determination to capture the right atmosphere led to his decision to record the album entirely at night in lengthy sessions that often lasted over 14 hours. The album’s haunting, brooding atmosphere shows that all this effort was worth it. Harris’ album is a marked progression from his debut. The interplay between the strings and Harris’ vocals and guitar is particularly impressive and shows clear evidence of an increasing maturity in his songwriting.
The album’s opener Calm Your Demons sets the tone with a gradually building guitar gaining in increasing energy, backed by ominous strings and a frantic flute conveying a sense of demons being anything but calmed.
It is the similarly dark songs on the album that have the greatest effect. Trying to be Silent, a song that deals with themes of pain and loss, begins slowly before working towards an impressively full and expansive finish. The interplay between Harris’ vocals and the string section is particularly impressive and brings a greater emphasis to the lines, “Trying to be silent/ Isn’t trying to be strong/ Man is not an island.”
Harris’ impressive guitar skills are well showcased on The Horse Road, a dark tale of death and imprisonment whilst on Moscow to Berlin, which keeps up the tone of the previous songs, he shows he is equally at home providing backing guitar, allowing an impressively plaintive violin to be brought to the fore.
Then and Now picks up on the theme of memory that is present in many of these songs. A story of love grown cold is given added force by the repeated line “As though it could be any other way.”
The last three songs on the album mark a light change in tone. The Red Squirrel sees Harris in more conventional instrumental Americana territory with his progressive guitar accompanied by an insistent, driving snare drum, clacking percussion and finally harmonica.
On The Way to Leh is somewhat of a mix between this Americana style and the sound that typifies the rest of the album. Harris’ rolling guitar is accompanied by mournful strings and gently, nostalgic lyrics.
The Tall Trees is a fascinating album that deserves to reach a wide audience. With an appearance at Glastonbury already confirmed there seems every reason to think that it will.
Review by: Alfred Archer