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Albums of the Year 2017: Rising Appalachia - Alive | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2017: Rising Appalachia - Alive

Albums of the Year 2017: Rising Appalachia - Alive

Prozac for the soul

Sister soul free-folk with a banjo bass

2017 has been a time of change if not turmoil, on both personal and political stratospheres. So the music of two sisters whose jam is made up primarily of protest and healing songs, is the perfect antidote.

When chaos abounds, the relentless positivism of this music from the new age RISE collective, soothes like prozac for the soul. Based between Southern Appalachia and New Orleans, Leah and Chloe Smith are independently produced multi-instrumentalists who take inspiration from their home and history as well as their travels. The result is a mesmirising mash-up of free folk, acoustic dance beats and local traditional sounds played out on fiddles, banjos and bass alongside djembes, kalimbas and didgeridoos as well as spoons and washboards.

Alive, their seventh studio album, is a collection of live tracks from US tours over the past two years. It opens with "Lean In", an intimate acoustic duet that embraces us into a hypnotic realm of strum, sway and balladry that is yanked into some bluegrass with “Cripple Creek” before getting earthy and inwards with “Medicine”, dedicated to all the herbalist and wild food foragers within ear shot, singing "stand firm in loving defiance, make art your alliance, give voice to the fire" to a relaxed reggae rhythm.

“Closer to the Edge” challenges diaphanous vocals with bongos and tambourines; notes of gospel can be heard in “Novels of Acquaintance” and “Mississippi” while “Occupy” is a rousing stomp of a track. The duo's lightning fingered banjo is made even more electrifying with the atmosphere of live gigs – claps and yowls from the audience alongside wordy intros about the “sexy summer thunder”, in the slow and bluesy "Swoon", for example.

But you don't have to be a hemp-chafed-yoghurt-weaver to get these girls' musicality. Its earthy bass drives a groove from deep within; the frisky banjo gets you up on your feet and ready to riot, and the sisters' honeyed harmonies melt together like whisky and honey, all to enlightening effect.

Two More Essential Albums from 2017

Bjork: Utopia

Ed Sheeran: Divide

Gig of the Year

Martha Wainwright at the Roundhouse

Track of the Year

Lorde: "Green Light"

You don't have to be a hemp-chafed-yoghurt-weaver to get these girls' musicality


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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