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Treetop Flyers - Palomino

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 25 / 3 / 2016

Treetop Flyers - Palomino
Label: Loose Music
Format: CD


Second album from the London five-piece Treetop Flyers, produced by the band and mixed by Jonathan Wilson, is a soulful take on their own strain of Americana

A lot has happened in the Treetop Flyers' world since the release of their debut album, ‘The Mountain Moves’, some two and a half years ago; the loss of singer/guitarist Reid Morrison’s father, the passing of a close friend during the recording of that debut and a marriage falling apart are just some of the hardships that the band have had to deal with. That, coupled with the departure from the band of long-time bassist Matthew Starritt would, one could presume, result in their second album being a depressing listen. Yet, even though songs such as ‘St. Andrew’s Cross’, ’31 Years’ and ‘You, Darling You’ reflect upon these sufferings, the self-produced set doesn’t wallow in self-pity or sound depressing in the least. The album was mixed by Jonathan Wilson and, although the sound of Laurel Canyon was present in their debut, having one of the greatest exponents of that classic sound involved in this latest album in some capacity has certainly not hindered the band's vision. ‘Palomino’ is on the Loose Music label, which is another sign of quality, especially when it comes to soul-flavoured Americana. Singer Morrison is the possessor of one of those instantly recognisable country/soul voices. The comparisons to Crosby, Stills & Nash are coming thick and fast for the band’s harmonies that grace ‘Palomino’ and are well deserved, but in Morrison they have a lead singer who is more emotive than most who are producing music cut from a similar cloth. Using their own Soup Studios in London has no doubt given the band the freedom to experiment a little with the classic folk-rock sound and, given that the subject matter of some of the songs are fresh enough for the wounds not to have healed any yet, has probably spurred on Morrison to give heart-wrenching vocal performances throughout. Opening song, ‘You, Darling You’, kicks the album off perfectly; it displays all of the band’s strengths within the first minute of the song. A mysterious brooding short instrumental before those guitars kick in, soothing background vocals and Morrison’s distinctive lead vocal instantly drawing you in. The haunting quality of the song, not just the yearning in this love-gone-wrong song in Morrison’s voice but also in the soundscape the rest of the band create, is present throughout the whole album. In lesser talented bands the focus would all be on Morrison’s powerful, soulful vocals but such is the musicianship of all involved, as much as Morrison is a brilliant vocalist, it’s just one of the many factors that make ‘Palomino’ one of those special albums. There are four songs on ‘Palomino’ that hit the six-minute mark, only one song clocks in at under four minutes, so the songs are given the chance to develop and the listener is given the opportunity to really explore the songs as they unfold. It may be something of a cliché but there really is so much to discover in each song, even after the album has become something of a fixture in the player. ‘Lady Luck’, one of the six-minute tracks, is proof that Treetop Flyers are more than just another UK band who are using that West Coast sound as a successful spring board for their update of that classic genre. Dripping with the melancholic feel that permeates most of ‘Palomino’, it’s one of the most experimental songs that the band has yet recorded. A brooding, epic tale with Morrison showing the full range of his vocals, for all the emotion that the singer injects into each song here surely this has to rank as one of his most sensitive yet soulful outings. He’s almost outshone by the wall of sound that the band build up behind him. The last couple of minutes when the singer takes a back seat and lets the band do the talking with their instruments in simply stunning, but then when again Morrison comes in for the short, closing lyrics as the music fades away it’s the perfect ending to a perfect performance. They follow this with the shortest song on the album, ‘It’s a Shame’, a foot-tapping soul number that again shows that Treetop Flyers is a band that is totally at one when they play; the soulful background vocals are heart stopping, the almost poppy guitar runs add a totally unexpected flavour to the song and, like the rest of the songs on ‘Palomino’, it’s melodically rich. While it’s still unmistakably Treetop Flyers, it shows a completely different side to the band's vision than the song it follows. They carry this soul-flavoured quality over into the next track, ‘Dance Through the Night’ where the band experiment and expand again but with a different vision than they showed on ‘Lady Luck’. There’s a slight funky groove to the song. A touch of 60's psychedelia creeps in during the organ parts while the soaring guitar lines leave the listener breathless; for all the deserved comparisons to Crosby, Stills and Nash and their ilk, did they ever capture the energy of, say, Sly Stone or Eddie Hazel on their recorded works? Its six and a half minutes give the band the opportunity to cover so much ground and show that Treetop Flyers are not afraid to go places with their music that others wouldn’t dare to chance. ‘St. Andrew’s Cross’ is the complete opposite of what has just gone before, an acoustic tribute to Morrison’s late father. The singer wrings every last bit of emotion out in his vocals. The sparseness of the backing only adds to the feeling of loss while the harmonies are perfect and prove that those Crosby, Stills and Nash references are justified. Ultimately ‘Palomino’ is one of those albums that is so musically rich it’s almost pointless writing about it. It needs to be heard. It covers all aspects of music throughout the last five decades. There are lashings of soul mixed in with the band's Americana leanings. There is a popiness to some of the songs that instantly makes them appealing before repeated plays throw up barely hidden depths, and the playing and singing are simply some of the best you’ll likely to hear. Despite the subject matter of some of the songs and the melancholy, haunting vibe that hangs over much of the album, some of what should be the most darkest performances display an upbeat, positive vibe; ’31 Years’ was written after the death of a close friend but the driving beat afforded to the song would have you thinking otherwise. Again, the band touches so many bases during the song. In a way you’ve got to feel for Treetop Flyers, when your second album is as strong, perfect and diverse as this, where can you go next? But for now, this is one album that’s going to be kept close to hand. The closing track, ‘Wild Winds’, is playing again and it’s combination of soaring guitar, pounding beat and soulful vocals has just confirmed again that few even come close to Treetop Flyers right now.

Track Listing:-
1 You, Darling You
2 Sleepless Nights
3 Lady Luck
4 It's A Shame
5 Dance Through The Night
6 St Andrew's Cross
7 Falling Back
8 Fairytales & Lullabies
9 31 Years
10 Never Been As Hard
11 Wild Winds

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The Mountain Moves (2013)
Excellent debut album from London-based, but Los Angeles-formed folk act Treetop Flyers, which follows four years on from their first EP

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