"Down the Rabbit Holes" EP by Ross DarbyReview
It is a real privilege & pleasure to be able to review the new EP by Ross Darby entitled "Down the Rabbit Holes" which will be released on Friday 30th March.
Ross is already well known by many local (and national) music lovers for his membership of the Fallows & since that critically & popularly acclaimed band split, has been gaining equal respect for his solo performances.
I have seen several of these & had the fortune to hear some of these songs in development: they sounded good then & with extended arrangements plus a sympathetic production which emphasises the intimate intensity of Ross' delivery, they sound even finer on the EP.
Produced by Matt Waddell at 14 Records (Matt also plays bass, guitar & keyboards plus backing vocals), the EP also features Ciaran Corkerry on drums, Ryan Every on lap steel and Gemma Leahy on backing vocals on the title track.
These are very emotionally adult themed songs and the arrangements complement the lyrics effectively. As noted, they started life with Ross accompanying himself on his guitar & extra elements have clearly been added to bring out certain facets of them & where this hasn't been necessary, the space has been retained.
First up is the title track itself, with a sparse & haunting opening which showcases Ross' hypnotic & ringing guitar before building into a fuller arrangement which nevertheless still leaves his vocal as the predominant feature, rightly so as this is a keening & melancholic piece, tinged with regret. If the listener is expecting some sort of Lewis Carroll fantasy from the title, what they actually get is something much more sombre & rooted in reality.
"Follow You" jangles warmly and gently with another beautiful melody outlining a very adult set of experiences & thoughts which appealed to me greatly from the first hearing. I was actually tempted while listening to it to nominate it as my favourite on the EP, but then I replayed it & realised that all four could fit that bill: they are quite different & appeal to me in different ways. Thankfully, as I hate ranking songs anyway & feel under no obligation to do so. I imagine each listener will respond in her or his way & if they have a "favourite" then that is their prerogative.
"Sitting Duck" is a gorgeous track with a fuller arrangement from the start yet adroit use of drop out creates internal variations in tone & dynamics along the lines of the first song & again provides strong evidence of how the arrangements are devised to serve the emotional core of the song & communicate it to the listener.
"The Road" sits a little apart from the other three tracks, given that it is described as a "bonus track", possibly because it features so many excellent guest performers: to wit Miss Ellie & local Americana stars the Folly Brothers (Jonny Roden, Mark Roden, Wes Stanton & Ben Lambert). This results naturally in a very differently sounding piece with banjo & fiddle (by the late Mick Shalar) offering intriguing extra textures which help bring out the subtleties of the melodies & layered harmonies add further dynamics to the vocals. The use of male & female lead vocals (the latter from Miss Ellie) is also an effective idea & frankly the whole track is so authentic that the listener could assume it to be by an American bluegrass combo.
I for one am greatly looking forward to the launch night for this gem of a release which is on Friday 30th March at Leamington's Town House in George Street, when Ross will be joined by artists of the calibre of Danny Ansell & the Folly Brothers: and it's free entry too.