Dry the River are an A&R man’s dream- they carve out advert ready folk with ‘anthem’ cranked way past 11, and they do it well. Debut album Shallow Bed is a competent collection, tightly produced and skilfully delivered. It has sparks of excitement and surprise- opener Animal Skins swaggers in with a swampy snarl, following track New Ceremony builds deftly from hushed sensitivity to soaring drama, and, further in, Bible Belt details a fable of frostbitten alcoholism over a pastoral soundscape wide as the horizon.
Peter Liddle’s falsetto, however, grates as the album progresses- he has two settings—sensitive sing-song, and epic bombast, and the switch between them clunks predictability in one time too many. This accompanied by contrived lyrics about ‘medicine men’, ‘dusty roads’, and other such generic nods to Americana hold Shallow Bed back, ensuring it doesn’t quite transcend it’s influences- and while the band claim they’re following in the footsteps of the genuinely country fried Neutral Milk Hotel, they seem more like Mumford plus feedback. Whether that’s a recommendation or a dismissal is up to you.