Red River Dialect – Broken Stay Open Sky
Paradise of Bachelors – 2 February 2018
This may be the fourth album by Red River Dialect, the now London-based Cornish 60s psych-folk styled six-piece, originally from Falmouth, but I have to confess to not having come across them before. My bad (although FRUK reviewed their 2015 album here). While the band also comprises Simon Drinkwater (guitar), Coral Kindred-Boothby, (bass, cello), Ed Sanders (fiddle/dulcimer), Robin Stratton (piano) and new drummer recruit Kiran Bhatt, it’s based around singer-songwriter David Morris and informed by his spiritual practice. It was initially intended to be a concept album about different kinds of bells but, he says, that the writing refused to bow to conceptual coherency and what emerged instead were songs of pain and love, a coalescence and transformation of past, present and future and the tensions between the urban and the rural worlds, the landscape and ourselves.
It opens with acoustic guitar instrumental Juniper before morphing into the melodically jaunty The View with its breezy fiddle lines, shuffling circular percussion pattern with Morris singing how he’s “gaining confidence in the view now: The goodness of myself and others. The urge to connect and society! How? Cause I’ve seen the sky and also the weather.”
Opening with a lengthy instrumental passage and gently rolling along on a simple, fiddle underscored melody line with a swaying chorus line, the longest track at just over seven minutes, Kukkuripa is named for the legend of a Buddhist mystic in India and how he gave up a life of paradise with the gods to return to his pet dog and lived a life of compassion for others, Morris encapsulating the core message as he sings about “the thoughts that I have when I become my thinking.”
By contrast, harking to the original intent, the piano and fiddle-led Open Sky (bell) is just four minutes, a rhythmically lilting widescreen expansive sound that, with its Celtic hues, musically and lyrically evokes mountain air and streams on lyrics about not being afraid to have an open heart. There’s more of an urban miasma to Aery Thin, another highly atmospheric number with hushed vocals and dreamy fiddle as he sings about being taken out to clearly metaphorical oceans and catching the waves – existential surfing perhaps.
The percussion extending the imagery in a musical sense with cymbals conjuring waves breaking over rocks, Cinders strips it back for a slow, sparse, lugubrious and contemplative track, the mood immediately upended with Gull Rock, the title referencing the titular rock on the album cover, out to sea just off Trebarwith Strand in North Cornwall. It’s the album’s most traditional folk sounding number, bass, rumbling drums and the strings bustling it along on a discordant tide of dark man versus nature lyrics that reach a cacophonous climax before gradually ebbing away.
It ends with Campana (another bell referencing title), opening on the sort of piano you might hear being played in the church of some old Western, a hymn to companionship and past friendships and relationships that tolls the line “breaking the bread, ringing the bell”, fiddle and snare bolstering the melody and a lyric that even manages to work in a nod to the children’s tongue twister “she sells sea shells on the seashore.”
To truly appreciate this album, it’s best heard as a flow rather than individual tracks, those who speak the vernacular will find its vocabulary richly rewarding.
Upcoming Live Dates
WED 14 FEBRUARY
Cafe OTO, London, UK
FRI 16 FEBRUARY
Rough Trade East, London, UK
More dates and details here: http://www.redriverdialect.com/