"Orchards" by Chasing DeerReview
Out right now is the latest Chasing Deer single "Orchards" which acts also as a taster for the ‘Diamonds in the Rafters' album which will be out on Tuesday 20th June 2023 (the album will also include tracks such as "Always Been You", "Scared", "Now", "On Standby" and "Bad Decisions" which you should already know, not least because we've told you about them when they came out as singles. I hope that you were paying attention). Ultimately all the songs on the album, these included, derive from a songwriting retreat Rob Hodkinson took in Margate last year. The album will be launched with a show on the above date at the Camden Club in London.
As with the songs from the same source, "Orchards" was performed by Rob with Ollie Hayes, produced by Johan Thelin and mastered by Gethin John at Hafod Mastering.
I think I'd go with the idea that Rob's popularity is founded upon his live work with the variety of others who've graced the Chasing Deer ranks over the years: he/they have played a lot, before audiences small & very large & across a decent geographical area. During that time, there have been a fair number of original releases & they (as far as my experience of their shows go) have provided the bulk of live sets: not hidden away among droves of covers, and therefore must be a significant attraction for their many fans.
That said, most have tended to be the sort of upbeat, poppy tunes which you'd expect to work live: "Orchards" in this respect is groundbreaking for a Chasing Deer release. Rob (again as far as I can tell) informs most, if not all, of his writing with the personal experiences & feelings which add the soulful authenticity which presumably is another plank in his popularity. Those songs from the forthcoming album which I'm already familiar, certainly seem to go further down that road & so it's not too much of a surprise when he calls "Orchards" his "most personal song yet": he's at that point. Interestingly, he also thinks that it might be his best too: quite possibly the two perceptions are connected.
Consequently, it needs to be what it needs to be & so to make it emotionally true, the upbeat side needs putting on hold this time: offering a very different dynamic to most of the rest of the repertoire, one would hope that not only will live audiences respect the song for its truth, but also appreciate the change in mood & emotion at the part of the set in which it appears.
The song is a fragile ballad in format: although about "grief & loss", Rob also intends it to leave "a message of hope and resilience shining through": in fact when he sent it me, he actually described it as "motivational" and felt that it could imbue the listener with a sense of peace. Thus it needs to be taken perhaps as an emotional narrative of a journey through the realities of loss via therapy to finding a way to process such feelings as positively as the circumstances permit. Hence the pastoral quality to "Orchards" ("You told me life is an orchard/And the tears that are forming/ Will help it grow"). The song does grow like the orchard of the title: both the instrumental arrangement & the number of voices. This adds to the sense of optimism but also, with the choir effect, something appropriately spiritual is evoked also, as is the reminder of the Chasing Deer creed that we are, ultimately, not alone in this world.