Dry The River have been blighted by unwanted comparisons to 2009′s breakout stars Mumford & Sons and the now infamous West London folk scene which went onto to define the nu-folk sound. Oddly, while the warm and rousing Mumford rallying call can be heard on spirited anthems “History Book” and “The Chambers and The Valves”, Dry The River bare a darker and more portentous influence.
Arcade Fire and Bon Iver loom large over Shallow Bed informing everything from withering strained vocals to the thundering percussive swells. This hero worship culminates in “Lion’s Den”, a pastiche so transparent that Arcade Fire may well warrant writing credits, if not royalties. Still, while the debt owed to both Bon Iver and For Emma, Ever Ago is immediately apparent, Dry The River work hard to incorporate the most exciting elements of every other avante-folk luminary of recent years: pinching a dash of Emmy The Great’s heady word play, a splash of Beriut’s mood altering brass work, and finishing it off with a healthy dollop of Grizzly Bear’s eerie last second harmonies.
Original thought may not be Dry The River’s forte, but that doesn’t hinder the band’s throughly professional sense of drive as they offer a forthright and emotional terse survey of 21st Century arena-folk. Lyrically, Dry The River share Mumford & Sons penchant for recurring themes as biblical imagery and the touchstones of the American Mid Western expanse pervade. Rather adding a sense of scope and drama these easily identifiable references points serve to convey a weight of pre-existing emotional resonance that the band themselves appear incapable of mustering. On their own terms, and in their own words, Dry The River fail to sway and often grate as Peter Liddle painfully dispenses a series of overly intense one liners, consider this peach from “Demons”: “You Are The String In My Bow…And North Isn’t True Until It’s Leading Me To You“.
Trying too hard is the operative phrase. Dry The River constantly grope for a sense of timeless grandeur and emotional immediacy when their best results are actually achieved by simply surveying their influences and letting rip. The first half of Shallow Bed is a real joy, it isn’t weighed down by unrealistic ambition and gruelling sentiment, instead it takes pleasure in a familiar, but still exciting, palette of sounds. Dry The River have the potential to melt hearts, but they need to come to terms with who they are, and more importantly, who they are not. David Hayter