Hatful Of Rain
Title: Way Up On The Hill
Artist: Hatful of Rain
Album: Way Up On The Hill
You can buy the CD here
If you could liken Hatful of Rain’s debut album to any whatchamacallit, it would undoubtedly be a patchwork duvet. The reason being that each member of this novel four-piece have the deep musical roots needed to create such a differing stockpile of bluegrass-infused ditties and British roots refrains.
It’s also fair to say that the album is patchwork in terms of the songs that made the cut. Fiddle-led melodies like ‘Jerusalem Tart’ will find you having to control your feet as they madly flail uncontrollably under your desk at work, or in the car. Have no fear, this album has that sort of effect. Whilst it has no parental guidance label and is a record for everyone, this new release should carry a warning along the lines of: “Will cause spontaneous jigging”.
At the same time as making you restrain your limbs however, the Hatfuls are more than adept when it comes to tenderly caressing our compassionate sides through musical virtuosity. ‘The Exit Song’ particularly stands out in this way, showcasing Chloe Overton’s classical vocals alongside the dreamy echoes of a lone banjo as well as a violin and double bass that seem to have been strung using the proverbial heartstrings.
‘Way Up On The Hill’ also has that warm feeling you get from wrapping up in your blanket in front of a fire, because it makes use of that single microphone approach that is often found in a traditional bluegrass setting. The idea of having four people sharing the same microphone highlights how this music is for the community, just as bluegrass and folk ideals teach us.
Broken families are a popular theme in bluegrass music, and the track ‘Welcome To The Family’ is more than just the clichéd “haunting”. It is an evocative and stirring mix of poignant lyrical workings, embellished by the mandolin and bound with a ponderous and chilling undertone of strings. The lyric “we didn’t mean to kill her, it was just a game” seems to come from a child’s perspective, making this song even more woeful, yet every bluegrass album needs hints of a murder ballad.
Passions try to be held back in ‘No Return’, but the upbeat nature carried by the melodious fiddle causes the protagonist to want their darling even more. We can only assume that she loses her man a few songs down the line when she begs ‘Whiskey’ to be her friend and see her through the darkest nights. Again, no country/bluegrass/roots album is complete without a song about a good old fashioned drinking session.
Fortunately, you don’t need to drink anything alcoholic to enjoy Hatful of Rain’s debut album. The musical virtuosity shared by this assorted foursome is so strong that from start to finish, ‘Way Up On The Hill’ is an emotional jaunt that is sure to keep listeners engaged through the absorbing stories and compelling bluegrass-folk-fusion tunes.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in dungarees at the end of this one!