Boat to Row should have a bright future ahead of them. They have the scarce ability to create uplifting, catchy folk melodies with cross genre appeal. Their sound makes me think of a warm summer’s day, enjoying the outdoors at a festival gig. They exude that type of energy, emotion and enthusiasm.
The band’s six members hail from the West Midlands area of Britain. Boat to Row have developed over many live shows to this release, a five song EP entitled ‘Loyal Light’. The EP starts off strongly with ‘Loyal Light’. A highly accessible and catchy song with charming vocals by Michael King and Anna Bennett. Throughout ‘Loyal Light’ King’s wholesome silky vocals are blended with Bennett’s beautiful soaring tones to create radiant harmonies. Musically the track is well paced and dramatically accentuated by Lloyd Miller’s percussion.
BTR couple their motivational music with some insightful, positive and poignant lyrics. There are gems of wisdom in almost every verse and the lyrics often read like poetry. As a reviewer who likes to quote lyrics, BTR were a dream. Optimism simply drips from : “If people can’t see clearly / I’ll find a brighter light”.
The next track, ‘Freedom’ builds slowly with a gentle organ melody. It is soon joined by a playful banjo and the distinctive sound of glockenspiel keys. In addition to singing Bennett plays the violin which is prominent on most BTR songs. Her violin adds a distinctive folk flavour as it rises and falls in the mix throughout the song.
The third song ‘Ode to a Working Day’ possesses a quiet tension and a discernibly more serious tone. The tone is reflected in the thought provoking lyrics : “I’ll try and keep a smiling / for what else can I do / when everything around me / is sinking and untrue.” The song is wonderfully arranged with some dramatic pauses, plenty of instrumental inflections and once again, lovely vocal harmonies. The song’s melody is appropriately anchored by a melodica which is skillfully played by Emma Geddes.
‘Dreaming of Wild Flowers’ didn’t seem to flow as well as their other material. It was slower and somewhat dreary without any percussion to move it along. ‘Loyal Light’ ends with the killer track ‘Old Scenes’. BTR pick up the pace again with a strong musical push from bassist Billy Moss. ‘Old Scenes’ has my favourite vocal harmony. The gorgeous ‘Sweep by me please’ found near the end of the song which punctuates BTR’s impressive vocal prowess.
The songs on ‘Loyal Light’ are lyrically clever and musically eloquent. They often exhibit a maturity and musical sophistication that defies BTR’s age. The majority of ‘Loyal Light’ is lively, satisfying and irresistibly amiable. King and Bennett repeatedly craft graceful and compelling vocal harmonies. ‘Loyal Light’ is truly inspiring Folk and Boat to Row are well worth a listen.
Released on November 19th through Istartedthefire Records.
Posted by Dave Guzda.