The story of Winter Mountain up to the release of their first EP Find, Follow, is one which could not have been written any better by an author or poet, the coming together of the two musicians which make up the folk flavoured band a tale bred for emotive aural narratives. One half of the pairing is an Englishman who inspired by the 60’s folk resurgence in Greenwich Village moved from Cornwall to New York City. JR ‘Joe’ Francis spent a month writing and performing before heading west, stopping in Chicago for a short while. Marty Smyth the other half of the band is an Irishman from Donegal who had flown to California to search for the soul that infused his favourite records of the 60’s and 70’s. After two weeks he made his way east and found himself in Chicago too. The two musicians and songwriters found themselves on the same train heading to Memphis, began talking and discovered a mutual love for the sounds of the sixties, vocal harmonies and more was there between them. This was 2008 and from this moment the seeds of Winter Mountain were sown.
Meeting up again after their individual travels were completed, the pair came together again to write and perform, their debut show seeing them win a Battle of the Bands contest in Northern Ireland which earned them a two day recording session in a studio. This led them to the attention of Irish singing luminary Cara Dillon and her husband producer Sam Lakeman, the couple soon signing the duo to their fledgling label, Charcoal Records. Pulling in a team of musicians including Robbie McIntosh (guitarist with McCartney, The Pretenders and John Mayer), Audrey Riley (string arranger for Coldplay and Nick Cave) and Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Pulp), the band set about recording their debut release, Find, Follow which was subsequently mixed by Mike Crossey (Keane, Ben Howard, The Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg).
Does the release match the background and history leading up to its creation I hear you ask…quite simply yes, the three track release is a gentle and absorbing weave of melodies, harmonies, and emotive songwriting that inspires an immediate ardour. From start to finish it engages with, lights up, and strokes the ear with a warm and vibrant caress of sound and enterprise. The opening track alone provides evidence of why the pair of travellers found not only a connection with themselves but the following praise and enthusiasm of others. Shed a Little Light is a refreshing stroll through an emotive summer of enticing guitar crafted melodies and mesmeric harmonies from the two vocalists. With a Nashville twang to its voice the song carries a smile to its gait and presence which is transferred through the bright lyrical narrative and its presentation. Infectious to the point where feet have no self-control, the track is an openly pleasing joy with a bass groan to drool over.
The following track Sarah is a gentler, if that is possible, and mellower temptress of melodic craft and flowing harmonies. Vocally the song is a cross between Seth Lakeman and The Everlys Brothers, whilst musically it is pure creative beauty which recruits the passions into its own emotive heart with irresistible ease.
Completed by the most potently emotive track on the release, Whenever You Lay Your Head Down, the EP is simply delicious. The final song with an even stronger Everlys like embrace is a slowly smouldering track which walks the edge of melancholic climes without losing its hope and impassioned light. It is a wonderful conclusion to a great debut which will surely ignite an appetite for Winter Mountain far beyond the folk scene.
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