The Wilderness Yet – Debut Album Review

Their ears and hearts nested in the traditional, ‘The Wilderness Yet’ provide an album with many brilliant, emotional responses to nature.

Away from the bustle, in a secret garden within the leafy settlement of Sheffield, we get the glimpse of a band bringing their debut to the fore. 

“The Wilderness Yet” comprises of Rowan Piggott (fiddle), Phillippe Barnes (guitar/flute) and Rosie Hodgson (vocals), a trio of South Yorkshire folk artists entering the “wilderness” that is a folk world full of surprises and joys; they are accompanied on tracks by guest musicians Ewan Carson (bodhran), Charlie Piggott (button accordion) and Johnny Ringo (bodhran). The result is a swirling, strong entry into the genre that plays a hand of cards that will suit long time enthusiasts with it’s traditional leanings, but also excite by keeping some new songs up their sleeve.   

What goes a good way towards the atmosphere of the disc (that helps carry it along) is the artwork, which we have to start by praising. The artist Adam Oehlers (http://www.adamoehlersillustration.com/) brings together animal and tree in a beautiful, coppery unity. At this time of year in particular the golden hues of the leaves, the branches and grasses (with laws unto themselves) and the wondrous spectacle of the inside illustration are calling to the wild, calling to the intricate system of nature. When you pick up the disc, it is a sensory, auspicious start.

This scene setter leads into the light dance and explicit harkening to the season in the first track “The Beauties of Autumn”. Inspired by a walk outside Halsway Manor (definitely a semi-wild spectacle) in the early morning, the track feels like the crinkles around your wellies during an unexpected dry spell. Quietly celebratory it marks the beginning of the album with it’s positive, warm and fresh sound.

Speaking of warm beginnings, “In a fair country” is a sweet, fruity medley of blackcurrant and apple in a rich chutney that could be part of of an oaty breakfast. Sang traditionally and with a chirpy harmony, it is a good track that lends to your ears it’s familiarity in structure and character. We mention fruit as Hodgson’s voice reminds of gooseberries, a hint of sharpness that tingles the soggy tart pastry. It all works well and there is a good mingle with Piggott and Barnes’ who lay a deeper, essential mossy covering to the track. As a song which laments for the loss of trees it is close to our heart (particularly with the previous years’ battles around tree felling in the Steel City).

It is definitely an album which looks to the natural path. Queen and Country is a nice little ditty (and named pun) with its theme of pride, bees and the parallels with the commitment to the cause. Previously part of a collection from EFDSS about bees in 2018 (www.songhive.co.uk) this is very welcome here. A joyful song combining a humble self-appreciation and joy in one’s place (as the subject refers to themselves as a labourer), it is like a mug of tea as the Summer winds out, an understated comfort that is universal. 

We love the lower, heavier notes that precede the group’s cover of Bogle’s “Song of the Whale”, a song about the beguilement of fisherman at the sound of the humpback 200 years ago. Adding a dynamism and rumble to the entrance is a nice contrast to the lighter lyrics. Stripping out the prominence of the original’s guitar for a nautically-turned viola d’amore and flute is a good choice as it  brings more otherworldliness to the song. As a sailor you might think that the sound has come through the veil of the world itself.

Another fine song that errs towards the darker is “Of Men Who’ll Never Know”. Calling towards the darkening of the world there is a beautiful expected starkness and stillness to this Swedish Love Song.  Mournful and disarming, the bleak end of things comes and with the gentle rattle of the accompanying instruments. For an album with is mostly light and springy, it is an unexpected diversion which adds a grim ink to this chapter of the album (but is none the worse for it).

Artwork by Adam Oehlers http://www.adamoehlersillustration.com/

Overall, “The Wilderness Yet” is a fine album themed around nature and people’s experiences of it be it quiet joy, strange wonder, fearfulness or  a merry dance alongside. The a cappella numbers are stirring, the original tracks clever and the inclusion of Scandi music is a very good one. Together as a package of theme, music, song and art it is as one. Well mixed (Piggott) and mastered (Sam Proctor), the album finds the right places to shine it’s spotlight be it the vocals, the gentle tap of the bodhran or the bright fiddle. It is rooted quite nicely in the the traditional form and has some lovely original additions to it’s body, like a shapely orchid emerging from rainforest bark.

If you would like to purchase or find more information on the band, go to www.thewildernessyet.com and check out this video below.

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