British husband and wife blues rock duo When Rivers Meet announce their debut album We Fly Free will be released on Friday 20th November 2020. The first single Battleground was released on 9th October and is now available from www.smarturl.it/whenriversmeet. Since launching onto the Blues scene with their debut The Uprising EP in April 2019, Grace and Aaron have been going from strength to strength, cemented with their May 2020 follow up EP Innocence Of Youth. As a result, the duo have an ever-growing online fan base and have gained the attention of Cerys Matthews’ The Blues Show on BBC Radio 2.
Before lockdown, the duo toured the UK in their self-converted VW camper with an impressive tour schedule. Since the lockdown, WRM have organised ‘Rockin’ The Lockdown’ – weekly Facebook live streams, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Their approach to song writing features dirty electric guitar, slide resonator mandolin and fiddle to create a contemporary blues rock sound that has echoes of 1970’s classic rock together with hints of the 1930’s blues that inspire them. Grace takes lead vocal on most of the album and plays mandolin and fiddle, while Aaron handles guitar and adds rich harmony vocals, and sings lead on two tracks – Breaker Of Chains and Take Me To The River. The pair are augmented by Adam Bowers (bass, drums, organ, piano) and Robin G Breeze (bass, organ, piano).
A flair for retro production has led to a concerted effort to keep to a old-school, gritty sound using authentic techniques including echo and reverb chambers to create a warm live sound that keeps a truly vintage vibe. They’re also delighted to have made use of a Hammond organ in some of the tracks.
The album kicks off with Did I Break The Law, an energetic swaggering track featuring Aaron’s stomping slide guitar and a full-on introduction to Grace’s vocal power. Hints of the Clash song of similar title, it’s all about the thrill of the chase and a sense of freedom. Kissing The Sky follows, a very ‘live’ feel and Grace playing slide Mandolin and a nice keyboards-led mantra – this has a real a late ’60s/’70s vibe. Battleground is an intense, relentlessly pounding drums-driven number, with a quiet melodic bridge section before it rumbles on again. Grace really gets stuck into this one, she loves that slightly muffled, retro vocal mix, again it adds to the rough-edged live production they’re obviously keen to capture.
Bound For Nowhere ups the ante further, the duo sound like they’re having the time of their lives performing this, a real headbanger of a song. Aaron clearly loves that warm, slightly ‘boingy’, echoey sound on his guitar, it somehow has a feel of a Western movie about it, a real cinematic sound. Walking On The Wire is another chuggin’, dirty, slide guitar riff with an anthemic chorus line and ‘whiney’ slide solo in the middle, probably the rockiest track on the album?
I’d Have Fallen then changes the beat altogether, softly picked guitar with jazzy snare-drum work, it’s a different soundscape with thought provoking lyrics. Breaker Of Chains is another different take, a dark Americana blues song with shared vocals and again that distinctive hollow, floaty timbre to the guitar but quite staccato chords and percussion, a sense of impending doom?
I Will Fight is a piano led song, a nod to the generation that fought in the great war. It was the first song that WRM wrote for the album, being the initial spur that got the album going. It’s a nicely powerful shared style of story-telling, a real rollercoaster with a cracking guitar solo in the middle bridge section before the heavyweight finale. Bury My Body then seems to flow seamlessly on from the previous track, it’s a beautiful acoustic number, a gorgeous melody with swooping vocal harmonies and a gorgeous swirling organ sound in the finale that makes the most of the Hammond. A lovely, elegaic song, my favourite track on the album.
Take Me To The River is a hard-hitting slide-driven slab of classic blues-rock with Aaron leading on vocals, with added slide mandolin lead breaks from Grace. Friend Of Mine introduces the cigar box guitar and double bass to produce an altogether older style of music, very much in the vein of traditional simple Blues but with a modern twist, a darkly building drumbeat in the background. The album’s closer, We Fly Free, is short but sweet – it kicks in with a thunderous drum intro and an infectious riff, reverts to a sparse bluesy rhythm, then bounces back to the heavyweight riff. Bit of a headbanger!
To sum up then, a genuinely interesting, eclectic mix of songs, produced in a retro-style, the mix being deliberately almost muddy at times. Although the songs have different styles, thre arrangements are slightly limited so you do need to be a fan of blues, slide guitar and this slightly ‘woolly’, retro mix, particularly on the vocals, but there’s undeniable talent at work here!
When Rivers Meet released their first single (Battleground) off their new album We Fly Free on 9 October, it certainly captures the album’s overall spirit and production – enjoy!