Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts (Vinyl)
Previous Jam Records Staff member David Morris is back with a stunning folk album our through his favourite label Paradise Of Bachelors.
Midway through “Salvation,” Red River Dialect’s headlong foray into psychedelic folk-rock, David Morris yelps out the words, “Iced coffee brain freeze!” It’s an odd moment, marrying a mundane idea with swirling fiddle and a relentless wah-wah guitar, and for that reason alone it could be easily parodied. It’s also a captivating moment, one that anchors the song’s loftier subjects to the everyday world and reveals something essential about Morris as a songwriter and bandleader. Red River Dialect are fascinated by tactile sensations, whether it’s the sharpness of hot metal against your hand or the soft tension of a piano key under your finger. When Morris shouts about brain freeze, you hear the band work together to evoke the chilly stab of adrenaline.
Such physical sensations are important, as they ground the earnest spiritual inquiries animating the Cornwall band’s inventive folk-rock songs. Morris is the son of an Anglican priest; as a teenager he found Buddhism through the Beat poets and went on to work as an interfaith adviser at the University of Westminster in London. Immediately following the sessions for Abundance Welcoming Ghosts, Red River Dialect’s fifth album, he decamped to Nova Scotia for a nine-month stay at Gampo Abbey. The music and the monastery visit may serve the same purpose, as Morris has regularly seeded Red River Dialect songs with spiritual insights and observations. “May I welcome joy when it comes near,” he sings on the jazzy, Pentangular “My Friend.” “May I also laugh about but never doubt it.” There’s a quiver in his voice, slightly more suppressed here than on previous records, that makes the lines sound less like lessons and more like reminders to himself.
Perhaps because the band knew Morris was going to disappear for close to a year, or perhaps because they spent so much time touring behind 2018’s Broken Stay Open Sky, these songs possess a new urgency and intensity. There’s an electric tension to “Blue Sparks,” with piano notes that sound like the hooves of a galloping horse. Even a slower, quieter tune like “Two White Carp” sounds barely contained, as though the players might burst out of the Welsh landscape as Morris paints it. In the tradition of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, who mixed traditional English folk songs with contemporary rock sounds, Red River Dialect understand the importance of a solid rhythm section: Drummer Kiran Bhatt and bassist Coral Kindred-Boothby play with a jazzy sense of invention that makes “Snowdon” sound like it’s powered by an invisible engine.