Westrock’s Going Strong on Welcome to the River
Now, the first thing anyone would say after taking in Westrock’s latest album cover and weighing it, perhaps, against the title—Welcome to the River—is: “if the recordings are even half as good as the artwork, these fellows really have something on their hands”.
The scenic depiction of a curling riverbed, cast against a rising or setting sun with the mysteries of the empyrean keeping hush silently above, is almost too good to be true, or something straight out of Wendy Pini’s classic Elfquest illustrations from the late 70’s.
It proves to be a fitting setting for many of the numbers on this album, which is sequenced in such a way that it begins with rousing, folksy-tinged rock before segueing into a steady stream, as it were, of cool ballads.
It’s during the latter part of the album that the concept of this collection’s promise truly unfolds. The electric guitars, which were always supported by the acoustics in tracks like “Dirty Girl”, completely give into the magic of the acoustic guitars. The strings, prone to square dance rhythms on tracks like the title song, yield themselves to thought-provoking emanations cascading their way in and out of the vocals. Even the drums, primarily consisting of acoustic kicks and snares, bow down before some creative tom toms or a touch of quietude on tunes like “Quiet Place”.
These moments certainly accentuate the vocal phrasings and lyrics of lead singer August Huckabee, who’s joined by Amy Ballinger on the harmony vocals on this number, as well. The two sound good when they kick back on some ‘whoa oh whoas’, showing that good songwriting’s not always about the lyrics.
Ballinger, however, steps out of the vocal booth from time to time to hoist, believe it or not, the mandolin. Her work certainly lends a poignant touch to “Hannah Jayne” who, judging by the way Huckabee sings her name, is as worthy of a dame as can be found just about anywhere. Still, it’s the ready to be sampled acoustic guitar on this track that really stands out, giving the tune—and a good portion of the album, frankly—the sort of feeling that inspires the best in us all.