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Wandering Hearts Latest Album Review Written by David Brown

The longest of long waits is over. The second album from The Wandering Hearts, who are probably one of my favourite bands for many a year, was finally released this week. This wonderful trio are difficult to pigeonhole. You would need the broadest of brushes to paint a picture of them as they are so many things that just blend seamlessly together. Having won the Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the UK Americana Awards in 2018, Americana is probably the coat they wear best. However, amongst other things they are country, they are folk, they are pop. They have harmonies that could quite easily fit perfectly into another time and place. As four-piece outfit comparisons were often made to a certain Swedish combo. The songs they perform sound simple yet are so much more. They are catchy and sophisticated and clever. So, for want of a better category let’s call them Americabba. A year later than planned their self-titled offering gets to see the light of day. A year which has seen so many changes. The line-up of the band had already been pared down to a three piece since the release of the debut album Wild Silence. This could have had an adverse impact on what was proving to be a very popular and successful line-up. As it is the remaining Hearts (Chess, Tara and AJ) have become a tighter unit and this album shows it. They had been gathering momentum and growing their fanbase as one of the hardest working bands on the road, supporting some major acts such as Jack Savoretti and Ward Thomas. And were clearly well within touching distance of breaking onto the scene Stateside. However, after putting the final touches to the album in Woodstock and whilst on a small tour in the US, which was proving popular and successful, their world along with ours was hit by a global pandemic. This not only stopped them in their tracks it caused them to make a mad, frantic retreat to the UK, quite literally catching the last plane out of Nashville. The ensuing 18 months have brought many changes. Not least of all a shift of record label. The band recently moved to Cooking Vinyl having been released by Decca. A move that many might not have expected but one that might just be about to work out well for both band and label. I, for one, hope the support and enthusiasm that Cooking Vinyl has shown for their artist is reflected in the success of this album. So, to the album itself. It was recorded in Nashville under the guidance and supervision of Simon Felice (The Felice Brothers) and David Baron, who both recently worked with The Lumineers. The album opens well, with a real bluesy bass and thumping drums intro to Hammer Fall. A well-crafted and ballsy, break-up song. Lovely harmonies and a worthy opener. We are immediately capturing the essence of recording this album in such an iconic region. Track two of twelve sees (or more accurately hears) AJ take lead vocals on Over Your Body. His strong vocal combines well with close harmonies. This is a strong album track that evokes memories of the 60s. Already there is magic happening here. You can almost see the band gallop into track three, as the opening of Build A Fire is reminiscent of real, old school country’n’western. It has a thumping chorus too which is sure to become a firm favourite when they take this album on the road. This track has been out there for a while now and I am sure that ‘happy wanderers’ everywhere are practicing their community singing and syncopated hand claps as we speak. Chess takes on lead on I Feel It Too. A softer, more folksie song helps us understand why comparisons have been made to First Aid Kit. Her vocals along with beautiful harmonies from Tara and AJ have a dreamlike quality. The vocals soar with twists and turns akin to the starlings on the album’s cover. Track five Gold is aptly named as it is quality supported with another solid, underlying drumbeat. With rich vocals this too is a track that has been out for a while and fans have been already treated to performances. This is another one which I am sure will gain strength and grow in popularity on the road. If, like me, you are listening to a vinyl copy you are now on the final track of Side One. And what a beautiful song it is. Dolores is a track inspired by an article Chess was reading about the sad, untimely death of Dolores O’Riordan, the wonderfully talented and immense lead singer of the Cranberries. Chess read the article on her way to a first song writing session with Caitlan Stubbs. From that session emerged this gentle yet hard hitting song about fragility. The song opens with some delicate picking that perfectly opens the doors for Chess and Tara’s vocals. I was fortunate enough to hear this track online a few months back and I almost wept. For me this is the standout track on the album. The production is superb, and everyone involved should be applauded for making something so beautiful about something that is often a very difficult and ugly subject. I love this song. I am sure it will resonate with far too many of the audience. It is both beautiful and tragic. Side two opens with a real classic. Dreams was a gift given by the legend that is Marty Stuart. Marty was supported by the band in the UK and invited them to Nashville in 2019. He introduced them to the Nashville audience on the stage of none other than The Ryman Auditorium. He is not only a mentor but from what I can see a true-life friend. He wrote Dreams with his wife Connie Smith. Having decided it may not be for him he gave this to the band and told them to do whatever they wanted to it. What they have done is classic country. AJ gives a terrific balladeering opening before Tara takes up the mantle to add a veneer of silk. It also sees Mr Stuart join in, playing mandolin. A real coup for the band. This track was never not going to be on the album. It is a real winner. I am sure that Marty must be more than happy with the result. Never Too Late has a kind of tribal, poppie beat to it. AJs vocals undoubtedly have a distinct and unique quality. On this I get a Cat Stevens vibe, especially the last note at the end. His Englishness for want of a better phrase is crisp and clean. I love the way he pronounces “laugh” and “dance” Coupled with cascading harmonies and hand clapping this is another simple, yet lovely track. Tell Me When I Wake Up is a moody, melodic offering. A happy, uplifting ditty that you will find it hard not to sing along to. Yes, this one is definitely on its way. The penultimate track on the album is Stardust. To me this this sounds like a Eurovision Song Contest winner. It clearly has all the hallmarks. A rousing, crowd-pleasing chorus and like the previous track listeners will find it hard not to join in. The album closes with some lovely harmonies and gentle, acoustic picking on Lullaby. Just as this track completes the album I can see this being played as the natural close of shows up and down the country. A dreamy end to a dreamy album. An album that I am sure this will quickly propel The Wandering Hearts onto the next level. It is hard to believe this is only their second album. It is clear to me that the band have drawn on the influences of being in Woodstock. They have brought much to the table and are quite clearly being guided on their journey by what appears to be some very worthy people. Like many artists today The Wandering Hearts are an incredibly hard-working band with an abundance of talent and an incredible work ethic. They are due the success that this album deserves. It has been a long time coming but, for me, it has certainly been well worth the wait. If you get the chance to see them perform live I would take it now before they start playing to bigger venues. The Wandering Hearts are about to begin a small acoustic tour of the country starting on August 12 at Nottingham. They then start their first major headlining tour in the Spring of 2022. Hopefully by then album number three might well be nearing completion.

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