Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5
With the twin voices of Kilkenny’s Emlyn Holden and Dubliner Laura Hand, Southern Fold are a swaggering alt folk, dark country band. Right from the start on “Hold Back The Sun” it is the interplay between Emlyn and Laura’s voices that grabs your attention. But they are carried on Cian Doolan’s huge characterful guitar squalls and the Cello hasn’t sounded this dark and rock since Roy Wood started his singular odyssey in the late sixties. This is darkly powerful muscular folk rock with the lights off.
“Blood Of Life” crackles with some glorious mono 60s guitar riffs and a vocal duet that recalls a whiff of the spooky southern Gothic of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. “Save Your Soul” is the strongest yet, initially stripped back to a Carter Family or Johnny and June Cash duet it builds slowly and perfectly to become a glowing musical bonfire, stoked by Doolan’s guitar, swollen by Gerard Moloney’s rich accordion and banjo, “Sunday Best” is a quieter folk Bluegrass delight. Similarly “Jesus Chris and the Holy Ghost (Not Taken In Vain) ” and “Set Yourself In Fire With Love” use pedal steel and warm vocal harmonies to evoke the drifting hallucinogenic Americana of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris on GP. “Dead (Un) Forgiven” is an epic long song, and like a true epic is moves through different moods, early section is a glorious Americana duet, middle section has a darker psychedelic mood all driven by Emlyn’s acoustic and Cian’s lyrical electrical guitar with some stunning vocals by Laura. This is simply stunning, for all of its nine minutes and twenty seven seconds. Springsteen yelps and feedback too. “Mercy And Sin” with its folk string intro takes it the other way, intimate and brooding after expansive and roaring. Together and apart, Emlyn and Laura’s vocals are spiritual and reflective building a simply beautiful atmosphere on another stunning track.
The Southern Fold’s lively version of the gospel classic “Run On (For A Long Time)” is a roaring storm, it might be Zeppelin blasphemy, but it put me strongly in mind of the Raising Sand Plant and Krause album, thats how good the vocals are. “No-One Is My Name” has a psych folk, Pentangle quality to the vocals that is most appealing. “The Devil In Me” is an evocative buzzing strings folk blues, with some deft guitar flourishes. “Bible Fear” expands that Blues feel with a bit of Bad Seeds shimmer and touch of The Stereophonic’s Kelly Jones around the vocal. I love the tension between the guitars and the gospel edge to the vocals. “God Is A Ghost” is a wafting country lullaby, carried on some lovely pedal steel from David Murphy an acoustic guitar and a final rush of those glorious vocal harmonies.
Darker and fuller bodied than their earlier EP, with grit and swagger this is a strong contender for that ‘best music you’ve never heard’ slot. This is an early possible for my best of the year list. Listening online my computer ran it into Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball which worked rather well.
Choice Track: Hold Back the Sun (NSV 494)