Available background information on this outfit is rather sketchy, but it would appear that Red River Dialect began conscious life in 2010 as a solo outing for Cornwall native and singer-songwriter-guitarist David Morris, then expanded into a full-band project in 2012 with the release of the album awellupontheway. This was by all accounts a distinctly rock-charged record, with a five-piece lineup letting proverbial rip on a set of mostly rousing, sometimes epic, psychedelia-inspired folk-rock.
In almost complete contrast, Tender Gold And Gentle Blue is a predominantly acoustic, sparsely- (yet tellingly-) scored record with a very special and unique atmosphere, the wildness of its predecessor tempered by the beauty of its slightly hazy newly-discovered landscape, one whose very title kindof evokes the Cornish seascape as much as the landscape of the mind and its musical character. Its feeling of remoteness is curiously inclusive, exotically refined in the ringingly modal, early-music sense and yet not sounding over-much like that (except perhaps where the disc bids us farewell with a decidedly archaic-toned instrumental jaunt through the shanty Rio Grande – make what sense you will of that!).
David’s songs inhabit a bittersweet milieu that’s every bit as understatedly heartrending as it is musically mesmerising. But by goodness, it’s a bleak vision, at times unremittingly so, but in truth tremendously compelling. From the outset (For Ruth And Jane), we fall under his spell, which remains in control of our minds even during the disc’s odder moments (like the weird, wyrd close-on-ten-minute opus Ring Of Kerry which, following its initial hope-filled revelation, succumbs to unearthly resonances, rainstorms and tolling bells) and its interspersed pair of attractive guitar instrumentals (Child Song and Sceillic). After the first of these, the disc really gets into its stride with standout cut Amelia, whose rolling tides of emotion pit David’s typically nervy, edgy, tremulous yet insistent vocal against Ed Sanders’ lovely melancholy drone-rich violin and Simon Drinkwater’s busy, rippling banjo backdrop. The ensuing tracks, however, including the ostensibly obscurely referenced Solomon’s-song of Khesed (“Woe-betide, You are not here anymore”), offer no consolation. Cavernous Calls takes a nightmarish child’s-eye view of a leap of faith, for all that it’s set to a surprisingly reassuring melody, whereas Great Eastern Sun (which features a guest guitar part from Nathan Salsburg) almost, but not quite, manages to lift the spirits (“I am not only light. Colours make their way Out of my dreams”).
The disc’s package comes with a prominent endorsement by M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger – no idle or ill-considered writeup this, but one which contains the key sentence “Theirs is a focused longing, a confusion of soul, a visionary lamentation”: an assessment I’d be unlikely to better.
Review by: David Kidman