An Appalachian inspired folk-rock band from the U.K. you say? Now that’s just silly. But really it’s the true story of the band The Empty Pages that hail from across the pond in Stamford and play very specific sounding southern folksy Americana and infuse it with a bit of that good old British folk balladry and at times one hears even a tinge of Spanish classical guitar in between the twangs.
The Empty Pages began as a solo recording project for guitar teacher and multi-instrumentalist Kieran Wade on guitar, mandolin, ukulele, keys, bass, vocals and percussion, then morphed into a full band adding Stuart Hendry who sings and plays guitar, Andy Dearlove on bass, and Sean Dunmore on drums and percussion.
Their debut record also called The Empty Pages was recorded, mixed and mastered by Wade in his home studio and sounds very professionally done production-wise. The opening track gets things off to an upbeat and twangy start on the jug-band romper “Autumn Girl” which showcases the band's attention to detail. The strings are finger picked to precision and the percussion snaps with a precise crispness. Another thing of note here are the vocal harmonies which are reminiscent of CSN&Y.
Next The Empty Pages show their range on the downcast crooner “Bring Me Home” which clomps along at a horse trot pace and evokes a few sad fellers sitting around a campfire beneath the stars, passing the time and passing around a bottle of whiskey. Then comes the integral fusing of Americana country balladry with that intensely painted landscape that can only be reared by Irish and British folk story-telling of hardships which the band portrays on “The Old Mill Lane.”
But The Empty Pages prove that they not just here to write sad old ballads but can also throw down a little rock and roll jamboree in the happy times as they do on the impressive and upbeat instrumental “Magic 66” on which they show off their collective instrumental skills. They even find time to stick in a little upbeat story song on the prison intoned “Glad to be Free.”
This is a well-wrought debut full of songs which chronicle the ups and downs of everyday life set to bristling, well-orchestrated folk. There are a lot of chroniclers of folk out there, I know, but The Empty Pages can rock circles around the lot of them.
Jamie Robash, Divide & Conquer, August 25th, 2017.