CD REVIEW Dry The River

Band : Dry The River
Album title : Shallow Bed
Label : RCA Victor
Distributor : Sony Music
Release date : 05/03/2012 (US= 17/04/2012)
Release : CD

Although officially formed in 2009, the history of this London Based British Folk Rock act can be traced further back in time! It's a funny one, well worth the telling, so here we go.

In essence, it all starts with frontman Peter Liddle (lead vocals, guitar), born in Norway to English parents, and a father working in the oil business, which led the family to travel around a lot, giving the young Peter a strange set of reference points. One of 'em being a fixation with community and belonging. This then led to his taking an interest in the iconography and language of the Roman Catholic Church, without becoming specifically religious, at one of his primary schools, where he honed his voice in the school choir. By the time he returned to Newbury (some 80 km West from the center of London) as a teenager, he and the other members of Dry the River (guitarist/ keyboardist/ backing vocalist Mathew Taylor, violinist/ keyboardist Will Harvey, bassist/ percussionist/ backing singer Scott Miller and drummer Jon Warren) were crossing paths in bands of various genres on the DIY scene (meaning you were dealing mainly with Hardcore and Post-Punk flavoured bands) around Southampton 45 km South from Newbury), Reading (25 km from Newbury in the direction of London), and Newbury's Waterside Youth Centre.

University however took Peter to Bristol for studies in anthropology, studies which were followed by medical school at London's King's College. In his first year of higher education, music became a major distraction, and he would be off touring with bands, occasionally taking three weeks off without telling his lecturers, but at medical school, he resolved to put music on the back burner. In spite of his best efforts though, that acoustic guitar in the corner of his room kept calling, and Peter could not help himself starting to compose Folky material. Eventually, during a Summer break, he called upon his friends from the Reading scene, who were now all living in London anyway, to rehearse and record his new music, but emphasizing on it being different from what they'd done with their old bands, keeping it stripped back, really gentle and lo-fi!

Following that session (which resulted in the Nov. 2009 self-released 4-track EP The Chamber And The Valves), Peter went out on a solo tour in that same summer (2009), already under the Dry The River monicker. On his return from that stint, he reassembled the full band for a band debut show at London's Lexington, which was well attended by label A&R, who'd already heard the whisper in the wind. In the live conditions however, it somehow felt wrong to keep back and restrain themselves, and so after a few shows Liddle told his friends to let go and rock out. It gave the songs a new intensity which was more fun for both the audiences and the band alike. Second EP Bible Belt (5 tracks) followed in April 2010, and got considerable radio support from BBC Introducing, with the band's being signed to Transgressive Publishing as further result. This was the end of medical studies, as the band was able to quit their jobs and studies, and immediately went on tour, partying hard for 6 months in a row across the UK, Europe, and even the outer Hebrides (an island group at the North-West of Scotland). In between tours, they took up residence together in a house in eastern London suburb Stratford, the close living conditions only making the individual bonds between the members tighter and tighter.

In March 2011 the band traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut's Tarquin Studio where, under productional guidance of Peter Katis (known from work with Interpol and The National) they recorded the material for their debut album (as well as bonus material for singles to come). A first taster of that work came with the June 2011 released No Rest 7-inch single (b-side a demo version of the as yet exclusive “Night Owls”, also available as digital download). Meanwhile, the band was making a run of the UK festivals, and playing some slots at key European events as well. In September the band sold out London's prestigious venue Scala. November saw the release of the 4-track teaser EP Weights And Measures (which would hold 2 exclusive songs with “Family” and “Thou Art Loosed”), and February 24 another pre-album release came with the 7-inch “The Chambers And The Valves” (b-side again an exclusive track entitled “Hammer”). All of this put the band on the BBC Sound Of 2012 poll's long-list.

And there's good reason for that, because this band is truly delightful. Not only does the instrumentation make for a delightfully melodic complexity (also thanks to the thrown-in additional play of trombonist Benjamin Lanz and trumpetist Kyle Resnick during several songs – additional guests include Simon Fuller bringing additional trombone in the track “No Rest”, and Marlow Stern and the Shot Glass Choir bringing additional vocals to album opener “Animal Skins”), but what absolutely màkes the album, is the lead singer's very peculiar vocal signature! Hard to describe really, but he would've done great in the Sad Dad Trad Rock bands of a decade ago...heck, he would be great in any type of band, even as the clean counterpart in a MetalCore act! He's got that special kind of voice which makes people turn their heads with a whispered “That's só beautiful!”, and if you don't believe that statement, just go 'n' listen to the music posted at (www.) last.fm/music/Dry+The+River (most of the 15 tracks posted are just samples, I'm afraid), or view the videos posted at (www.) drytheriver.net.

At this moment, the band is on tour in the US, but they return to the UK on April 12 for a run 13 shows at UK and Irish venues into May (and the popularity of the band shows by the fact that no less than 6 venues are already sold out, including London's Electric Ballroom which is bigger than Scala, 3 months ahead of the show). Early May will see the band put in some shows in Holland and Luxembourg, and after that it's the Summer Festival season again (for more details on the separate shows, check the “Live” section on the band's own website). Those having heard the band on album and wanting to find out whether the guys can actually perform their studio music in live conditions, are recommended to go out as fast as possible to get their tickets, because it looks like this band's popularity is deservedly growing like a spreading bush wildfire!

Yeah...and of course I love this...feel like I can't do without anymore (in spite of having missed what was goin' on during the first listening session because of being concentrated on house chores)...and I' gladly adding Shallow Bed to my “Best Albums Of 2012” list, of course!

98/100

Tony.