Viv & Riley

REVIEW: Viv & Riley “Imaginary People”


Viv & Riley – Imaginary People

This lively set by the North Carolina duo of Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno is driven by Vivian’s distinctive vocals. They’re an engaging pair. Viv’s voice is a tad more dominant but there’s a Joni Mitchell quality to the repertoire. Pristine acoustic guitars paint vivid notes & while the LP has a bittersweet nostalgia threaded through its showcase it shouldn’t detract from a listener’s pleasure. All songs are well-written & with very little embellishments, quite earthy & organic. The most electrifying song is “The General,” which finds Vivian’s vocals fervent & dazzling.

This 10-folky pop-oriented array of songs decorates the duo’s Imaginary People (Drops Sept 15–Free Dirt Records). Produced by Alex Bingham (bass/synths/MPC) they don’t necessarily create anything groundbreaking but they do present an assortment of enticing courses that find a path forward to an uncertain world.

There’s a warm camaraderie between the two that shines through & is evident in their material. They’ve been described as “lush” – hardly so. They have a gripping manner with gentle melodies that are as well-constructed as anything produced before them by Richard & Mimi Farina, Clive Gregson & Christine Collister, or Richard & Linda Thompson.

But vocally, they’re quite accomplished. Wonderfully compelling, with vision & motivation on songs that are delivered with a contemporary feel rather than a heavy-handed traditional one. Not all songs are as gripping as others, but the ballads are forthright & pensive. The CD is set in an optimistic mix. Times when uprooting & taking a leap of faith is necessary. Knowing when to open up to new experiences & ideas in order to mature. No silliness here.

Viv (vocals/acoustic guitar) & Riley (vocals/acoustic, electric high-strung guitars/fiddle/banjo) aren’t afraid to take an old genre & experiment to reshape & supplement the material. While Viv has the more colorful voice Riley’s lead on “How To Lose,” is precise. Viv enunciates quite well with her vocals (“The Long Way”).

Though the CD is melancholic more times than not they attempt to find color in a chaotic gray world. But basically, they realize that no matter what generation you’re born to Thomas Wolfe’s novel “You Can Never Go Home,” is sadly accurate. It’s just a fact of life, things change & no matter how far you’re from the action it will change things – even small lives in small towns.

“Chance Creek,” is a rousing instrumental – encouraging with interplay that’s dynamic. But overall, the effort sounds honest & with the promise of a rosy future out there somewhere.

Highlights – “Kygers Hill,” “The General,” “Imaginary People,” “How To Lose,” “Chance Creek,” “The Long Way” & the beautiful Ozark traditional song “The Blackest Crow.”

Musicians – Andy Stack (drums/acoustic guitar/organelle/pump organ), Sam Fribush (keys/banjo), Whit Wright (pedal steel) & Bucket Bingham (vocals).

CD @ Bandcamp +

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