Quartet The Wandering Hearts are rapidly becoming one of the biggest acts on the UK country music scene. Fresh from winning the Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at last week’s UK Americana Awards and with legions of fans across the country, they’re about to be even bigger with the release of their long-awaited debut album, Wild Silence.
The atmospheric, stomping Rattle opens the record and sets the template for what’s to come, with the group’s signature harmonies at the fore and a lovely gravelly edge to AJ’s voice. Their vocals on the pacey chorus in particular really reminded me of Little Big Town and gave it a powerful feeling – almost like a wall of sound – before dropping back down. I was also seriously impressed by the big notes Tara hit at the end of the song!
There’s a strong folk influence throughout the album, notably on tracks such as Wish I Could and Change For The Good; the latter in particular is packed with imagery of woods and fire which add to the ‘wild’ feeling of the record. That said, the band also show that they’re not afraid to embrace other styles, particularly the toe-tapping, poppier Devil which is practically begging for a crowd to clap and sing along to it.
One thing I particularly liked is that whilst the album emphasises how the band’s voices sound together, each member also gets a chance to shine. In particular I really liked the blend of Chess and Tara’s voices on If I Fall, which started off gently and then built throughout, and the title track. However, for me the star vocalist of the four was AJ. He showed off some impressive vocal runs on the Ed Sheeran-esque Fire And Water and a soulful vibe on the twangy Biting Through The Wires.
One of the standout songs on the album for me were the slow, stripped-back Laid In The Ground, with its traditional feel and vivid imagery. The powerful emotion of the lyrics was perfectly captured by AJ’s vocal which was strong without being overwhelming. I also really liked the rawness of Heartbreak Hotel, which included a beautifully sweet and clear bridge from Tara, and the wistful Burning Bridges which struck a nice balance between the delicate melody, warm vocals of all four band members and bittersweet lyrics.
The final track on the album is Iona, which captures the essence of the record brilliantly for me. It’s got a steady rhythm, a traditional folk feel (emphasises by the wind instruments at the end), a huge soaring chorus and the four members’ voices blend together perfectly. In my view the song feels utterly timeless – it could have been recorded decades ago, yet still sounds completely fresh – and that could sum up the album as a whole.
Overall Wild Silence is a strong debut album which shows off The Wandering Hearts’ strengths – particularly their harmonies, their ear for a good rhythm and a strong turn of phrase, and their penchant for a big sing-along chorus. It’s an album that embraces the traditions of country and folk music whilst still having modern sensibilities, and is set to catapult the band to even bigger things.
Track list: 1. Rattle 2. Wish I Could 3. Fire And Water 4. If I Fall 5. Change For The Good 6. Devil 7. Biting Through The Wires 8. Wild Silence 9. Laid In The Ground 10. Burning Bridges 11. Heartbreak Hotel 12. Iona Record label: Decca Release date: 9th February 2018