Country-folk rock bands are not exclusive to the United States but are alive and well in the U.K. thanks to bands like Quill, who add some unique elements to the sound.
They have expanded recently into a seven piece group fronted by vocalist Joy Strachan-Brain. Other current members include keyboardist/acoustic guitarist Dave Bailey, drummers Tim Tandler & Bev Bevan, violinist Kate McWilliam, bassist Matt Davies, and guitarist/mandolin player Tony Kelsey. All members except the drummers contribute to the vocal harmonies.
Their new album, Brush With The Moon, is a bittersweet affair as bassist/composer and husband of Joy, Ben Brain, has passed away leaving behind several songs that form the foundation of their new release. Added to the mix are five songs taken from two of their English EP’s.
Joy Strachan-Brain has one of those voices that is striking in it clarity and timbre. When combined with their thoughtful and introspective lyrics, it produces music of rare beauty. Violinist Kate McWilliam contributes a Celtic element on many of the tracks, which gives the sound a very different flavor.
The previously released “England” is an anthem to their home country in which Brain’s vocals soar, backed by subtle harmonies. “Poppy Fields” with lyrics of longing, is a good example of McWilliam’s violin weaving in and out of the mix. “Schoolyard” is a looking back, made more poignant by circumstances. “Nine Mile Camp” showcases the purity of Brain’s voice.
It will be interesting to see if new members Bevan (ELO and Black Sabbath) and Kelsey (Robert Plant and Steve Winwood) change the approach as they come from very rock backgrounds. In some ways their current sound reminds one of a reflective Blackmore’s Night that has replaced the jauntiness with introspection.
Brush With The Moon is stunning in its simplicity and ability to convey emotions and thoughts. Quill tends to stay on their side of the Ocean so albums are their main exposure in the United States. If you are looking for something new from a group that has been together three decades, then Quill may be just the band for you.