Underhill Rose – Live
Self-Released – 30 June 2017
Comprising Molly Rose Reed, Salley Williamson and Eleanor Underhill on, respectively guitar, banjo and upright bass, over the past four years Asheville trio Underhill Rose have been entertaining audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with their Appalachian-flavoured folk music. Following on from three studio albums, they now release this Live collection, a sort of stripped down ‘best of’ recorded over two nights, each of two sets, at Asheville’s Altamont Theater and Lexington’s High Rock Outfitters.
Opening the set with Reed taking the lead on Who Brought The Sun, the first number on their self-titled debut album, it’s clear why they’ve had such success, their soaring vocals and tight harmonies complemented by fine fingerwork and solid songcraft.
From the same album, you also get banjo-dappled ballads 2000 Miles, Westside and Bridge while with the jaunty harmonica-accompanied They Got My Back (Williamson’s tribute to the community in which she was raised) the first of three songs from, 2013’s Something Real. The others two are End of 27, a swing styled blues that nods to the notorious 27 Club, the age at which so many rock musicians have died, and the celebration of hearth and home that is Little House.
The most recent album release, The Great Tomorrow also yields three numbers, the moody, romantic noir yearning of Underhill’s Whispering Pines Motel, the crooned country Love Looks Good On You and the shuffle rhythm When I Die. Which leaves five covers, two of which you’ll not be familiar with unless you’re already a fan. Written by jazz pianist Richard Jones back in the early 20s, Trouble In Mind is an eight-bar blues. It opens a capella before taking on a revival meeting feel. The song has been a long time staple of their shows, the other being a slightly more musically upbeat version of In Color, a 2008 song about an old man looking back at black and white photographs of his life with his grandkids. It’s written by Jamey Johnson, a gravelly-voiced Alabama-born country singer much feted by Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss.
The two best-known covers are, disappointingly, the album’s weakest tracks. An ill-advised bluegrassy take on These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ that may work in person but feels out of place here. The second is Bette Davis Eyes that lacks the sass and snap of the original. Fortunately, the final cover and the set-closer is far better, Underhill is back in the spotlight for a harmonica streaked, melancholic close-harmony recasting of John Prine’s Long Monday that deservedly warrants the applause and whoops recorded here. Having recently completed a short UK and Irish tour, this should be in much demand.
Performing Little House at London’s Green Note in 2016:
Photo Credit Sandlin Gaither