This is, frankly, an album that I needed in my life from the amazing voices of The Black Feathers. The vocal blending of Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes is simply breathtaking. It’s pretty remarkable to hear two people able to connect in such a deep way. There’s something wonderful about their style, too, that although I would describe it as “folk” has a sort of genuineness to it that defies genre. They just “click,” and although that doesn’t make good PR blurbs, it’s a major element to what makes a good band and album.
The title track “Strangers We Meet” is an appropriate introduction to the duo’s exquisite sound. From the first strum of the guitar listeners are introduced to a gorgeous sound. The vocal blending “see that lighthouse before you” really shines as an indication of a phenomenal pair of artists and their sonic arrival. Blending voices with natural imagery, it’s an intensely emotive and powerful song.
The second track “10,000 Times” has a bit more attitude to it. It’s a bit like Barton Hollow, from the Civil Wars, the band I mentioned in the headline. Like it or not, these two capture a bit of that starry-eyed charm that Joy and John Paul had going on. There seems to be the same kind of writing and performing chemistry here. Aside from their phenomenal blending, the track highlights an ability to adjust dynamically, giving both powerful balladeer vocals as well as soft, deeply reflective personal lyrics. “I can run and hide… suffer death 10,000 times just to taste your lust for life.”
“Open Book” features Sian as the lead. Her voice is both familiar and unique. Clear and enticing, she has the ability to articulate well while keeping it sweet. “She’s an open book waiting to be read…” It’s a gentle but still deep song that explores a person’s seeking heart. The band really works well on this track, using strings to generate a comfortable mood. Honestly, it might be my favorite track on the album. There’s something that really works with Ray’s high harmonies highlighting Sian’s voice. I could go for a full album like this track.
“You Will Be Mine” is a gorgeous love song. Seriously from the guitar to the vocals, it’s a true example of Americana. Sian sounds a bit like the sweetness of Sara Watkins. “Some way, some how, some day, some time I will be back again to see your face… and on that day you will be mine.” It’s sweet, it’s well written and well performed. The subtle acoustic guitar allows for space for the two voices to shine, then the piano and rhythm section support the more powerful vocals later in the song. In short it’s balanced and works really, really well.
The final track “All Came Down” is more of the upbeat style. It’s not totally bluegrass, but not necessarily “country” in the sense of what most folks think of as country. It’s just good traditional music with its own fresh take on a classic sound. It’s actually kind of a depressing theme about everything falling apart, but it’s not the whiny stereotypical sad country song. It celebrates the struggle and personal disappointment.
All told this is a great album. There are a few of these songs that could be serious contenders for song of the year. I found myself consistently surprised. Although the album is short, it does not have any “skip” tracks. It’s sure to make a lot of fans of the Civil Wars happy to have a similar sound. The mixture of more relaxed songs and more upbeat tracks really shows the versatility of the Black Feathers. Fans of folk and Americana should definitely check out this album. It’s one that I will personally have on rotation for a good while.