Family Ravine

Another lovely entry to Round Bale’s roster and a high watermark for Kevin Cahill (East of the Valley Blues, Peripheral Living) shifting his focus from the roots / Americana of East of the Valley, who last had a solid sender for Astral Spirits, to lighter landing psychedelic folk streaked with rain. There’s still that ripple to the stringwork that burbles with the insistence of water, but on his own, without brother Patrick, he’s exploring more closely the greyed skies of UK folk this time. Leave Every Single You was informed by a lonesome separation. Cahill expressed a sudden interested in cults, and those who leave them behind. Perhaps a bit of that sneaks into the narrative of the strings — loss of faith, seclusion, disillusionment, shame, and shelter. Whether or not you bring that mindset to the record, the icy feeling of distance and isolation weighs heavy in these hymns.

Cahill’s picking lays in stark restraint to so many recent acoustic releases it comes as a sort of palette cleanser. His shading is all nuance, no flash. There’s a clear skill behind the playing but on Family Ravine’s debut Cahill never finds its necessary to flex. The closing track is the closest that the record comes to an outright stunner, but its more the composition than the playing that hits hard. While the rest of the record is stark, not bone dry, but certainly leaning that way, the final track moves from the hillsides of the UK to the German countryside, languishing in the cavern pastoral hues of Popul Vuh and Achim Reichel. The track bounces around the room in pulses and waves, letting the ripples that Cahill creates wash back and forth on one another in cascading obfuscation. It’s hard to know where one figure ends and the next begins. The disorientation is a perfect closer to an album about life change, shaky ground, and uncertain horizons.


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