This Narrow Plains article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Macon Oxley.
Trio Narrow Plains mould their influences into a distinctive Americana indie-folk sound on their eponymous debut album. ‘Narrow Plains’ was recorded in Brighton, with Chris Daniels as engineer, but the whole feel owes more to middle America than East Sussex. Hardly surprising, then, that they count US recording engineer John Davenport as a friend and supporter. This friendship came about through a “judges’ pick” selection on a US online talent contest called Bands4Good. The prize for Narrow Plains was a trip to record with Davenport at his Deep River studio in North Carolina. Davenport worked as an assistant engineer on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ for two years, and there’s more than a little of The Boss in Narrow Plains – especially his solo 1982 album, ‘Nebraska’.
The stripped-down acoustic track the band recorded with Davenport, ‘Choices’, isn’t on ‘Narrow Plains’. It will be intriguing to see if they do more work with him. Perhaps the next album? In the meantime, their debut starts with a track (‘Restless Mind’) that features harmonica from lead singer Charlie Ferriday, although it’s not as prominent as on the opener and title track of ‘Nebraska’. Nevertheless, it’s a pacey number with great drumming by Stuart Connick.
‘I Should’ve Known’ is the first single off the album with more harmonica and a touch of rockabilly in the rhythms and chords. It’s an acoustic folk rock sound, betraying their British influences — Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard, Noah and the Whale, and Newton Faulkner – but also hinting at the deeper US indie-folk direction that they are following in the wake of Bon Iver and Goo Goo Dolls. But there’s more to Ferriday than just sounding like other indie-folk outfits; on ‘Evermore’ he shows off his own individualistic acoustic guitar skills. The track is driven by his clever plucking and sparse-but-on-point bass by Roger Connick (Stuart’s brother).
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Ferriday and the Connick brothers sound most like Marcus Mumford on the straight-forward, one-directional ‘Ghost’. The stomping feel of ‘Running To Your Door’ — reworked from the ‘Somewhere In Between’ EP — is also reminiscent of the Mumfords. But Narrow Plains are more authentically rooted in a down-to-earth, friends-and-family vibe than the privileged Mumford and Sons.
‘Narrow Plains’ finds room for live favourites like ‘So Rewind’, their first single and the poppiest thing on the album — with a sing-along oh-oh-oh ending. But obviously catchy numbers like this may not represent Narrow Plains’ future. With more help from the US music industry, their future may lie in tracks like ‘Belong Together’, a slice of pure American rock that radio stations in the US may love just as they celebrate singer-songwriters like John Mellencamp.
A big American-style production enhances the first single’s B-side, ‘Keep You Anyway’, which gets more of that harmonica, rich bass and big percussion — just like ‘There She Goes’ later on the album. ‘Be Alright’ could not sound more American radio-friendly if it tried.
‘Let It Die’ again shows off Ferriday’s singer-songwriter skills on guitar and voice. Album closer ‘Take Me back’ blends all of the UK, US, folky, poppy and indie influences into another surprisingly mature sounding slice of music that would not sound out of place on US FM radio or a Hollywood soundtrack. Narrow Plains won Hard Rock Rising 2015 and make music that will win them many more friends.
‘Narrow Plains’ is out now on CD and as a full digital release on 14th February 2016 via Smart Indie.