The Wandering Hearts may be an unfamiliar name outside the UK Americana scene. That’s not surprising, the London based band formed less than two years ago, have released only a single then an EP towards the end of last year. Today, February 9, the Wandering Hearts release their debut album, ‘Wild Silence’. This should launch them in a steeply upward trajectory so by the end of this year I suspect they will be very well known on both sides of the Atlantic.
The group have caused quite a stir over here having won the Bob Harris Emerging Artist Trophy at the recent UK Americana Awards. For a debut record there is a striking confidence about ‘Wild Silence’, which is an outstanding demonstration of the group’s talent in songwriting, musicianship and above all harmonies. This latter quality is the group’s hallmark and why they came together in the first place. When Tim Prottey-Jones and Tara Wilcox met Chess Whiffin and AJ Dean-Rivington a little over two years ago they had only to sing for a short time to realise they had so much in common. Bomding immediately they knew they were on to something here. Listening to how they work their intricate arrangements suggests they’ve been together all their lives.
As with any artist finding a new audience the inevitable comparisons pop up. Being UK, a boy/girl duo, (two, this time) drawing on strong country influences singing with some beautiful harmonies the Wandering Hearts are compared to Little Big Town. To my mind The Wandering Hearts have deeper roots. There is a substance about them that goes beyond a specific label such as ‘country’. There is more than a touch of Crosby, Stills and Nash about some of their harmonies, Fleetwood Mac also bear comparison.‘Wild Silence’ has big production and the sound the band and producer have created just blows you away.
Opening track, ‘Rattle’ starts with a modest riff to introduce the duetting Tara and Chess then a harsher line from AJ bringing in Tim leads into the first soaring harmony that blends four into one. It really is a “what was that?’ moment. At a slower pace comes ‘I Wish I Could’, their first ever song, this time AJ starts, then Tara, then again all four create a mesmerising sound.
‘Fire & Water’ is perfect pop song. It defies analysis, there’s a bit of yodelling, otherwise it’s a beautifully crafted and produced song that just makes you feel happy. Nothing wrong with that. The slower ‘If I Fall’ highlights the quiet subtleties in the girls’ voices in contrast to their stronger harmonies.
There is a grittier side, ‘Biting Through the Wires’ has some deep lyrics; “Try my best to see/But darkness blinded me/Ash in my eyes as I feel for the flame/We fight this fight to reignite/But we are who we are”. It’s a haunting piece of music.
A critic might say there is a sameness that runs through much of the record. I’d contest that by saying listen harder. There is so much going on that on the first listen some of the “bigger” songs almost overwhelm. But yield to these glorious musicians and singers. It becomes addictive. I have to repeat, the album is so perfectly produced by Pete Hammerton, who has been made such a contribution to drawing out the best of these talented artists.
Picking a standout song is hard but if pushed I’d go for the title track because it just pulls together everything these four do so well; individual vocals, harmonies for two and four, just the right accompaniment to create what will become The Wandering Hearts signature ’sound’.
Perhaps reflecting their live show the record has a powerful finish. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ builds up to a kind of base camp for closing song, ‘Iona’ which after the signature lead-in soars to its summit. The peak has been reached.
‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, you’ve guided me musically for over forty years. You most certainly haven’t lost your touch in championing The Wandering Hearts. ‘Wild Silence’ is an epic debut.