Underhill Rose - 'Live' - ScrollerWhy do a live album? Well when you’re as good live as Eleanor Underhill, Molly Rose and Salley Williamson, the prospect of being recorded live holds no terrors. They can even play without any amplification if they have to. “Live”, recorded in Asheville, North Carolina, over two nights was an attempt to let a wider audience hear the songs in their live incarnations: three voices and four instruments (including Eleanor’s harmonica). And it’s a highly successful attempt; the quality of the performances is superb and with fifteen songs, no-one can complain about quantity.
The mix of songs is fairly representative of the live experience, featuring songs spanning their studio albums and a couple of interesting covers, “These Boots are Made for Walking” featuring Salley Williamson’s vocal and upright bass, and a deft stripping-down of the eighties classic “Bette Davis Eyes” that shows exactly how powerful the song is without the synthesised eighties percussion.
Throughout the album, the harmonies are perfect and the recording captures the warmth and intimacy that’s a huge part of any Underhill Rose show, highlighted in the celebration of community and friendship, “They Got My Back”. There’s no inconsistency; the performance is perfect throughout. If I had to pick standouts, I would go for the sultry “Whispering Pines Motel” or the combination of photographic imagery and reminiscence of the lovely “In Color”. If you haven’t seen Eleanor, Molly and Salley live yet, this is the next best thing. If you have seen them, it will bring those memories back.
Now let’s wait for Tony Visconti to tell us it was eighty percent overdubbed.
“Live” is released on Friday June 30.

Underhill Rose ScrollerThe Great Tomorrow” is Underhill Rose’s third album and it’s a lovely example of smooth and polished Americana with just an occasional hint of darkness to offer a little contrast. The three members, Molly Rose, Eleanor Underhill and Salley Williamson play guitar, banjo and bass respectively; they all sing and they divide the songwriting duties between them across the album (with the notable exception of one cover). Molly and Eleanor split the lead vocals almost equally but the true beauty of the gorgeous sound they make is in the blending of all three voices to create the beautiful harmonies that suffuse the album.

“The Great Tomorrow” won’t hit you like you a hammer blow; it’s a lot more subtle than that. Each soothing harmony, each plangent pedal steel fill, each yearning fiddle line is a shining thread in a rich, shimmering tapestry. You can appreciate the individual parts up close, but the true beauty only reveals itself when you see the whole picture. It may not be immediate, but it will stay with you for ever.

The settings for the songs on the album augment Molly, Eleanor and Salley’s guitar, banjo and bass with the traditional Appalachian fiddle and Dobro, and Nashville elements of pedal steel and Fender Rhodes to create a wonderful variety of arrangements from the classic banjo and fiddle combination of the haunting “Montana” to the unusual fiddle and Fender Rhodes combination on the lazy shuffle of “Whispering Pines Motel”. There’s a huge variety of lyrical moods on this collection, from the empty desolation of “My Friend” and the circle-of-life theme of “When I Die” to the backwoods outlaw tale of “Shine”. And there’s a joker in the pack as well; a cover of the Elliott Woolf song, “Straight Up”, made famous by Paula Abdul in the eighties. The first rule of covers club is ’make the song your own’ and that’s exactly what they’ve done, slowing down the tempo to a slow country rock feel and focussing the energy on a stomping pre-chorus; it’s exactly what a great cover should be.

A lovely album packed with deft and delicate touches and glorious harmonies throughout.

You can see Rose Underhill live in the UK in late April/early May at these venues:

April

Thursday 21st                    Half Moon, Putney (with Benjamin Folke Thomas)

Saturday 23rd                    Cranleigh Arts Centre, Cranleigh, Surrey

Wednesday 27th               The Biddulph Arms, Biddulph, Staffordshire

Friday 29th                        Green Note, London

Saturday 30th                   Union Chapel, London (with Colin Hay)

May

Sunday 1st                         The Stables, Milton Keynes

Wednesday 4th                 The John Hewitt, Belfast (Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival)

Thursday 5th                     The Ivy, Naas, Co. Kildare

Friday 6th                          The Venue Theatre, Ratoath, Co. Meath

Saturday 7th                      The Bronte Centre, Rathfriland, N. Ireland

“The Great Tomorrow” is out on March 25th.