Album Review: Dry the River – Shallow Bed acoustic version

By on Thursday, 10th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Dry the River Shallow Bed acousticSince their first single release, 2011’s ‘No Rest’, Dry the River’s profile has steadily risen, culminating in last year’s album release and triumphant accompanying tour. Unwavering support from the likes of Amazing Radio is no less credit than they deserve for a punishing live schedule which has seen not a single month pass since 2011 when they haven’t played a gig.

Even more impressive then, is that they have found the time to return to the studio and completely re-record their debut album, ‘Shallow Bed’. For those who missed ‘Shallow Bed’ the first time, here follows the executive summary: a thing of both delicacy and power, ‘Shallow Bed’ channelled the burgeoning folk-rock revival whilst still maintaining an air of credibility, probably thanks to the dual virtues of well-honed material, and notable virtuoso performances from the band, in particular singer Peter Liddle’s distinctively keening vocal.

Fast forward 9 months later, and ‘Shallow Bed’ the acoustic version is upon us. The casual observer would be forgiven for imagining that this is a simple stop-gap, a melange of previously released acoustic versions and even (shock, horror!) demos, but all the evidence points to this being a full re-recording of the entire album. As such, even though the basic material is the same, this release warrants reviewing as a new piece.

The original album found itself rocking out at times, which is not the case here. Instead, drama is generated from subtle instrumentation and savoured, drawn-out lyrical delivery. This all lends itself to careful absorption and analysis of the material – which stands up ably to such scrutiny. ‘Bible Belt’, always a piece which relied more on emotional rather than instrumental impact, is slowed down even further, the guitars exiled, and simple strings and piano take their place. The ensuing tension is palpable.

In ‘History Book’, swathes of delicate harmony vocals take centre stage, with just the minutest of guitar embellishments for company, setting the lead melody free to become, if anything, even more beautiful. <a href="Emmy the Great pops up on ‘Shaker Hymns’: the female voice such a rarity on Dry the River material, it shines like a gold nugget nestling at the bottom of the eponymous dessicated bedrock, in comparison with Liddle’s unctuous delivery, where each vowel eases its way out with the gentle effort of a birthing monotreme.

Overall, the mood is misty, mournful, righteous. This album sounds wonderful, a true pleasure to listen to on a good sound system, the acoustic instruments breathing clearly in a well-constructed ambience. Its gentle sound may suit background listening, and is superb for easing children off to sleep, but it deserves just as much foreground attention as its louder forebear. There’s nothing shallow here but the name.

8/10

Dry the River’s acoustic version of ‘Shallow Bed’ is available now from RCA Victor.

Listening companions: Ryan Adams – ‘Love Is Hell’ (parts 1 and 2)

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