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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Set to capitalise on their 2016 debut album, Before The Sun Cambridge folk act Hannah Sanders (lead vocals, guitars, Dulcimer) and Ban Savage (vocals, Dobro, guitars) are joined by Jon Thorne (double bass), Burke Carroll (pedal steel), Evan Carson (percussion), Canadian Chris Coole (banjo) and producer David Travers – Smith (horns, organ) plus additional vocals from Oh Susanna (Suzanne Ungerleider; her career hasn't blossomed as much as I once expected), Jess Morgan, Gilmore & Roberts and David Bentley. As before the album was recorded in Toronto, and in Travers - Smith(Madison Violet, Wailin' Jennys) they have a top notch man in charge; the Grammy nominated producer does a sterling job.
In general Sanders pure and beautiful lead vocals are caressed in tender harmony vocals and immaculate understated Dobro, pedal steel, upright bass, guitars etc. They combine material of their own with I inspired covers of songs from Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg (“Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key”; what a beautiful arrangement and rendition) and they give Pete Seeger’s “One Grain Of Sand” a timely update. Savage is on lead vocals for traditional tune “Santa Fe Trail”, as it is also given nice a run out but they fare even better on their own “Selkie Song” (aided by some sympathetic banjo) and of a slightly mystical feel, “I Met A Man”.
Title-track “Awake” like so many is notable due to the beautiful, understated production. Savage and the angelic tones of Sanders are warmed in restrained electric guitar, and though solid enough it isn’t necessarily the strongest track. As noted above, the album has among its attributes much beauty and spare, but despite there is always a great deal happening for the listener to explore, absorb and ultimately enjoy.
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