That’s not to say that it’s all bad however, no sirree, as I’m sure everyone can agree that the likes of JOHNNY CASH and TAMMY WYNETTE are iconic performers, and they, like so many others helped take country music off of the front porch into packed out concert halls across the states. Although, while the UK doesn’t have a flourishing country scene, we do have artists that take influence from the genre and that leads us into today’s review; let me introduce you to HAWTHORN AVENUE.
The duo from Neath (Consisting of Marcus Gumms and Laura Benjamin) initially met in 2015 while both playing the South Wales live circuit and immediately gravitated toward each other creatively, starting out at jam nights where they found their feet in terms of collaborating. Laura, a multi-instrumentalist grew up loving music from a young age and looks up to the likes of TAYLOR SWIFT and CARRIE UNDERWOOD, while Marcus admits he just saw some guy on Stars In Their Eyes doing Johnny Cash and thought to himself ‘That’s what I’m going to do’…and he did! The duo have recently released their debut EP entitled “Wildfire” and have asked me to check it out…I guess it’s time to saddle up…
The EP opens up with “Raised Me Better” and it combines subtle organ notes with soft country blues and a crisp pop aesthetic…with its vocal harmonies, powerful key-changes yet an easy-listening approach, it delivers a wonderfully smooth, simplistic country-pop number. Hick-pop if you will. The songs message of restraint and composure allows for a positive outlook and sets a good example; be the better person, and it’s really quite lovely; a good start this. “Fade Away” strips things right back to a gently plucked acoustic-driven piece with subtle nods to a Native American woodwind influence. It’s a hushed, mellow little track with an emotive delivery, though picks up ever so slightly over time, incorporating more electric guitar and growing in volume and intensity, yet manages to stay restrained.
“The Water’s Edge” follows in the same vein with another sombre country ballad; with its sweet, delicate acoustics and silky vocal harmonies…it’s a quaint little track but out of the four presented here, it’s arguably the weakest of the bunch, though you can appreciate its tenderness. We do however finish on a strong note and the EP’s title track is a clear EP highlight in every sense of the term. “Wildfire” returns to a more up-beat presentation blending their love of country stylistics with a more modern indie-pop tone and the resulting track is full of sass, swagger and rhythm. The tinny guitar, dual vocal harmonies and a fantastically hook-laden, melodic chorus means this song is impossible to not enjoy, and it bookends this EP perfectly. Country may not be all too lucrative within the UK market, but here Hawthorn Avenue prove that you can utilise that distinct country style to great effect when blended in with a more modern, pop-oriented sound. After listening to this, I really hope this wildfire spreads…god that sounds terrible doesn’t it…
SPECIAL OFFER: Hawthorn Avenue will be playing a live show on August 14th at CLWB IFOR BACH in Cardiff, and if you want to catch them live, order your ticket from the link below, using the special link below, with the promotional code GAVIN10 and you’ll save yourself 10% on the ticket price! What are you waiting for!