It may seem a bit strange to review a debut album from a new folk collective and then, after just a few months, finding two of the full-time members of the same project releasing another debut LP under a different name. But that’s exactly what happened. Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti are two talented English folk musicians that founded in 2014 the band named Hickory Signals. The duo has released so far a couple of interesting EPs and they eventually released in November 2018 their first LP, named Turn to Fray. Earlier this year, however, Ward and Ronchetti contributed to the publication of The Crowing, the debut LP from Bird in the Belly, which was reviewed and also included in one of the recent charts of this blog.
It’s a strange circumstance, as I said, but at the same time it gives us the possibility to verify how the same artists can offer, even if in very similar contexts, different interpretations of the same genre of music. More precisely, after that we appreciated the formal and accurate process through which Bird and the Belly have transposed into music ancient and forgotten legends of the British tradition, in the case of Hickory Signals we can enjoy a defintely more relaxed approach to folk: less constrained by the formal rigor of the ancient traditions and more open to influences of other kinds of music. In this sense, the debut LP from Hickory Signals is absolutely surprising. Alongside a good number of songs that are deeply rooted in the Celtic tradition, the album features other tracks that are strongly reminiscent of the American art rock scene (I can quote Patti Smith and Kate Bush) or rather inspired by that version of pop-folk that was brought to success by bands like The Cranberries.
As a result, if Turn to Fray may appear on one side a little less compact and fascinating than Bird in the Belly’s The Crowing, on the other side Hickory Signal’s debut LP features a wider range of styles and, to some extent, this is reflected in the fact that the record is more dynamic and enjoyable to listen from the beginnng to the end. I feel that these two approaches to folk music are quite complementary, but although in the case of Bird in The Belly the road seems clearer and more linear, as far as Hickory Signals are concerned I perceive that the effective potential of the band has yet to explode: the gift that these two artists have already manifested in their capacity to soften up the canons of traditional folk in a more universal and “progressive” style of music must still reach a more solid center of gravity. But if we consider that even in this phase of consolidation we can already enjoy songs so beautiful as those we have in Turn to Fray, it means that it will be absolutely a pleasure to stay here and follow the development of their promising career.
Hickory Signals’ debut LP can be streamed from Spotify.
Standout tracks: Rosemary, Who Put the Blood and Two Girls.