Acoustic albums like buses!

It feels like we’ve been waiting for ages, but no sooner does Ferocious Dog’s acoustic album land then shortly after The Leylines Trio’s album hit the doormat.  It’s taken me a while to get around to getting around to writing this up, which is good as it’s given me more chance to listen to it!  The packaging is basic, a cardboard sleeve – the front artwork is understated, but the tracklisting design is a thing of beauty – if the first bite of a meal is with the eye then maybe the first listen of a CD is, maybe not – but it’s a good start nonetheless!

Trio Album is short but sweet – clocking in at just under half an hour it has seven tracks, five of which you’ll know if you’re familiar with The Leylines and two new tracks that might offer a teaser into the new full album release (or might not!).  It was recorded live as a band rather than track by track in a studio – which helps to enhance the stripped back and more intimate sound that resonates throughout these tracks – you can get properly up close and personal, and also appreciate some thoughtful new arrangements of familiar tunes.

Gotta Get Out of Here kicks in with guitar and mandolin before the more familiar guitar strum brings in some pace and Steve’s vocals, not a million miles from the full album track although here obviously we don’t get the bass and percussion oomph – instead you get the backing vocals really popping to the fore, occasionally all the strings drop out to give full on harmonised acapella sections which is really very effective indeed – a familiar song performed by familiar artists but in an unfamiliar yet delightful manner.

Two new tracks In My Head and Falling are up next – which is a welcome addition, there’s no basis for comparison with full band versions.  In My Head is a slow lament, finger-picked guitar and plaintive vocals are full of foreboding, again the backing vocals really jump out as the song develops – again, ending with a harmonised acapella section.  Falling is also a gentle track, but a sentimental song about enduring love, it’s really rather beautiful – I’m intrigued to see if both these tracks become full band affairs to see if they ‘kick in’ in true Leylines style.

We are back on to familiar territory next with My Own Worst Enemy – chugging guitar introduces the tracks before the vocals kick in, the backing vocals join before the fiddle overlays for the chorus.  As one of the more forceful tracks in full band mode it’s an interesting voice, and you don’t lose any of the vitriol or passion, with everything but the chugging guitar dropping out for the verses and empassioned backing vocal sections and the soaring fiddle solo – it really works rather splendidly indeed.

Queen and Country is my favourite song by The Leylines – I’ve often described it as their equivalent of Ferocious Dog’s Slow Motion Suicide, so it’s interesting that here as with FD’s acoustic album there’s the choice of using piano as the accompanying instrument to the guitars.  With it being recorded live, as mentioned before, and Hannah only having two hands that means in this case it’s in place of fiddle, the epic fiddle solo on the full band version of the song is frankly epic – but do you know what?  For this muted version, the piano works beautifully.

Of course, there is piano on the full band track too lurking in the mix (Hannah needed to tell me this, observant soul that I am) – but as with the backing vocals, this stripped down sound pops it to the fore.  I still look forward to the solo when listening to full album tracks or the band playing live, but strangely I don’t miss it as much as I feel I should on this track.  There’s some rearrangement and pacing changes with the ‘but if I come back home… tomorrow…’ section too, with just vocals and piano – it’s very effective, even without leading into an epic fiddle solo.  Again we end with clever harmonising vocals from all three.

You’ve Changed starts on Along the Old Straight Track with a percussion intro – not an option here, so they’ve brought the chorus forward to open with a harmonised acapello intro accompanied with gentle guitar strums, then the more familiar start – it keeps the pace of the more familiar track but without the depth of percussion and bass.  As with previous tracks, bringing the vocals of Matt and Hannah much more to the fore than we’re accustomed to (aside from if you happen to plonk yourself in the range of Matt’s monitor at a gig like I did in Glastonbury, then you get a different mix!).

The CD winds to an end with a count-in to the distinctive fiddle-driven intro for anthemic Sat in a Field – it had to be in there really, didn’t it?  A cheery way to finish off the album, keeping the pace of the full band track – and perfectly encapsulating, ironically, the feelings that are starting to develop as spring is in the air and festivals are looming again in the not-too-distant future.  It’s proper feel-good stuff – a nice mixture of the familiar and some intriguing new tracks, delivered in a slightly unfamiliar way.

I don’t think the CD is on their website at the moment, so I’m guessing you need to get yourselves to a gig to pick one up if you don’t already have one.

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