Artist: Many Nights Ahead
Album: We Pick Around EP
A lean, elegant, and heartwarming EP, We Pick Around is about the finest no-frills collection of songs you’ve heard in some time. A carefree and loving take on folk, bluegrass, and country, it sounds more like a casual session by a campfire – if you’ll pardon that cliché – than anything produced in a studio. The songs are effortless and natural, playing themselves out breezily over a minimalist cascade of instruments and fluid voices. The whole thing barely lasts nineteen minutes, making a worthy play for your affections without ever lingering long enough to become repetitious or irritatingly nice.
The six songs are loosely realised odes that place more emphasis on the careful steering of the vocals than the instruments. Everything is gently rhythmic. It sounds conscientious, moving just fast enough to grasp your attention but otherwise content with a lilting pace that lets the singer set the tone. This is a fine move, as there’s not a massive amount going on here in terms of storytelling or excitement – it’s rather about charm and refinement and drawing enough of your attention to envelop you in both. Female vocalist Amy Haloskey is particularly impressive, her tones clear and hearty and fitting the genre notes like a glove. “Franklin County” and “Rollin’ River” are both showcases for her voice. The first is understated and basic, its dulcet notes falling into a natural rhythm with her performance. The latter is more mysterious – Haloskey’s voice is prying and touched by longing, lending a regal touch of emotion to the music. It isn’t as upfront as the other tracks, preferring instead to hold back and wallow in the shallows for a time.
Her co-vocalist Ross Gulliver comes into his own on “Hills of Virginia,” a sweet, earnest ode vibrant with all the affection and warmth of his voice. It’s loving and tender-hearted and very natural, seeking to charm rather than consume. “Polecat Hollow” and “Running Whiskey” are a touch cheekier and daring than the others, but rely on the same basic simplicity of sound. “Greenawalt Gap” closes the EP. An instrumental, it’s wispy and searching, flecked with brief moments of urgency. There’s a hidden drama to this one that surfaces between the shyer moments, breaking the contemplation with a call to flight. That it seems to end unresolved merely hints at what finer moments the band may yet have in mind.
Sublimely realised and quite captivating in its simplicity, We Pick Around hardly puts a foot wrong. A delightful start for Many Nights Ahead and a sign of potentially marvellous things to come.
Review written by Grace Duffy