REVIEW: A Different Thread’s “Some Distant Shore” is Timeworn with Beautiful Embellishment


A Different Thread – Some Distant Shore EP

Though it sounds quite timeworn in tradition, A Different Thread’s folk sensibility has that beautiful embellishment that Fairport Convention had (without all the instrumentation) & somewhat in a 60s angelic Marianne Faithful voice (“Wild Mountain Tyme”) before her voice was damaged by alcohol & cigarettes.

But this effort finds the duo taking old silver songs & polishing each antiquated melody. Englishman Robert Jackson (acoustic guitar, vocal), & red-haired American Alicia Best (fiddle & vocal) from North Carolina. As fate would have it – they met in Ireland. And we’re richer for it.

The 5-song EP Some Distant Shore, (drops May 22 – Independent) contains 5 dusty folk classics performed with sincerity yet maintaining gloriously rusty aged-old wisdom in every note & word. Along with their spare instrumentation (harmonica, & harmonies are also included) this music runs a gentle palm across the face of Appalachian, Celtic, traditional English, piedmont blues, & folk.

Both Ms. Best & Mr. Jackson have a quality to their voices that transcend youth & are impressive in its authenticity throughout.

Among the 5 tracks is “Red Is the Rose,” “Pretty Polly,” “Cruel Mother,” “Long Black Veil,” (acapella) & “The Blackest Crow.”

Each vocalist takes a lead & both are blessed with the stirring voice required to enrich the music from yesteryear when families sang on the back porch or out in the fields. It could be in West Virginia, South Carolina, or somewhere in the rainy hills of England.

The tunes are timeless classics, but they don’t show their age in the voices of Robert & Alicia. They just pour from their voices with inherited inspiration.

Everything sounds genuine. And it is. Nothing’s embellished instrumentally or artificially. The tradition is kept in check, in the spirit in which it was made. The British-Americana musical proficiency is thoroughly enjoyable.

They say their influence comes from the likes of Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch & Rhiannon Giddens but the music here is decades upon decades older than any of those artists. But, it’s really not important where the influence comes as long as it comes. Hopefully, the duo has explored the likes of the Carter Family, Bascom Lamar Lunsford & Dock Boggs. The more modern classic renditions as performed by Sandy Denny, Ms. Faithful in the 60s, & John Jacob Niles (who was one of the earliest proponents of the genre).

The duo should cover 2 classic melodic traditional songs “The Keeper,” (Tracy Newman) & “The Happy Wanderer” (Valerie-Veldera) — which would be a showstopper for the duo live. The audience would probably sing along. I haven’t yet heard an excellent version of either yet. Years have basically forgotten these folk songs.

Nonetheless, the duo does a credible job & most importantly, they sound excellent. Their voices are ideal together. With a full band of percussion, fiddles, mandolins & flutes along with them — they will certainly delight even the stodgiest of men in dark corners playing poker with smelly cigars.

Their 22-minute CD is available at Amazon & Bandcamp.

Leave a Reply!