Nashville trio make London debut with intimate showcase
“Thank you, you’ve been so kind on our debut” diminutive Emily Barker exclaims after their last song, but this is getting ahead of ourselves, let’s track back a bit first. Applewood Road are a country/folk trio from Nashville consisting of Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace. The music they make is honest and has a classic timeless quality to it. When you first hear their music you’re trying to work out if it’s an old Carter Family cover or an original, as it’s that amaranthine.
Their story is as organic as the music they make. In September 2014 Barker and Rubarth were set for a song writing session and went for a coffee before-hand. While chatting they contacted Speace who joined them. The original session never happened, but something else did. They wrote the song Applewood Road that day, and the band was formed. After recording their debut album in Nashville on vintage analogue recording equipment, they signed with London’s finest and analogue magpies, Gearbox Records, who in recent years have released debut albums from Michael Horovitz, Binker & Moses and Kate Tempest.
Ok, let’s jump to the present now. On a wet October evening we find ourselves walking to Tileyard Studios, behind one of London’s busiest transport hubs, because Applewood Road are making their London debut. Not big enough. OK, how about their UK debut? Still not enough, ok I’ll try again. Applewood Road are making their debut appearance outside of Nashville. When we arrive we’re greeted like old friends by Gearbox supremo Darrel Sheinman and Adam Sieff. After a brief catch Applewood Road take up their positions and their set begins.
Opening with the breath-takingly simple lead single, Applewood Road. Within seconds the room is filled with one of the most beautiful and transfixing three part harmonies I’ve ever heard. Time stops, the outside world blurs into insignificance and all everyone in the room is focusing on, and only thinking about are these three girls and their siren-esque vocals. After the song finished there is a brief pause, as everyone picks their jaws off the floor, before a barrage of applause. The girls slightly blush, say thank you, then jump straight into the next number To the Stars. This is another captivating number. Instead of just three part harmonies and an acoustic guitar, their throw a banjo into the mix. The banjo gives the song jaunty bootleggers party feel and if the setting was less formal, people would have been jigging. Old Country Song was up next the lyric “Sounds so sweet until it’s gone, like an old country song, playing on the jukebox” sums it up the song and the band perfectly.
As the set progressed so did their confidence, which added to the performance. For I’m Not Afraid, which was the first time it had been played live, they moved to a piano. Giving the intimate setting of the venue, and song took on a family gathering vibe, when people used to crowd around the old piano everyone either sung or played ‘their song’. Up until this point all the songs have only featured the girls and predominately guitars, but on Honey Won’t You, Sheinman joined them on a snare drum. Before they launched into it Barker said how during the session Sheinman had joined them on snare, but he had to play with paint brushes, as they didn’t have anything other than standard drum stick. It was one of the stand out songs in the set. Sheinman’s drumming had a hint of Orange Blossom Special to it. After Honey Won’t You, they closed the set with Lovin’ Eyes. Another absorbing exercise in harmony and guitars. After they finished the limited crown erupted in applause and whistles. Applewood Road blushed, again, said thank you and left the performance area.
What made Applewood Road so mesmerising is their simplicity. One acoustic guitar, or banjo and three part harmonies. That’s it. There is nowhere to hide in a dynamic like that. Either you can do it, or you can’t and Applewood Road can! The clarity of their voices is beyond belief. Their songs are starkly honest. Themes of love, rejection and redemption pepper their music, which plays into the original country/folk ethos. This is a small band with a bright future, let’s just hope that they don’t move too far away from their roots on Applewood Road.
Their debut album is released through Gearbox Records in February 2016
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