Album Review: The Hanging Stars – A New Kind of Sky (plus tour news)

Folk music seems to be a genre I dip in-and-out of; the multi-faceted style manages to have different elements that have the roots of traditional folk music underpinning those subversions that make it so sprawling. Anti-folk, neofolk, Americana – there is a list that can go on.

Be it the earnest, lo-fidelity accomplishments of Willy Mason or Nick Drake, the more grandeur, storytelling journeys of Two Gallants or, in the case of The Hanging Stars, that brand of Americana that combines the country-fried with the almost psychedelic/space-rock.

Admittedly I was surprised to read shortly after listening to A New Kind of Sky that the group are London-based; this kind of music the album offers across ten tracks seems more reminiscent to the United States than it does that British sense of “folk-rock.”

I mean that as a compliment also – and that they define themselves as “cosmic country” is as apt a descriptor than I could possibly make up.

Their lead single, “I Will Please You”, will no doubt appeal to traditionalists of Americana – the bounding rhythm section will unabashedly have you nodding along and its groundswell to its praise-like chorus of “I need you/I will please you” something I could imagine audiences singing along to in unison. Almost like a euphoric, sun-drenched psalm (as poetic or cliched as that sounds.)

Sacrilege dictates you should never make a comparison to those sacred artists of yesteryear, but I would be lying if I didn’t get an air of The Doors from The Hanging Stars. If not through the aforementioned psychedelic/cosmic moments, then perhaps through vocalist Richard Olson’s laconic singing.

“(I’ve Seen) The Summer In Her Eyes” undoubtedly elicits those sentiments – this track in particular acts as the defining example of that “cosmic country” term. The reverb from the guitar alongside the perfectly utilized use of Joe Harvey-White’s pedal steel and the harmonic, choral “I’ve seen the summer in her eyes” mantra become very hypnagogic and quickly became a favourite of mine to return back to.

A New Kind of Sky I have no doubts will find its audience, but I would implore even the most jaded of Americana fan to visit it. The vastness of the folk genre, with its many splinters of sub-genres, can seem exhausting to follow at the best of times.

But this somehow manages to cut through much of the same-old, same-old, and might even lead to rearing a newer audience to delve into the still well-regarded genre.

A New Kind of Sky is out now through Crimson Crow.

… and if everything you’ve read here has generated an interest in watching the band live, the group will be touring from March 2020:

9/3 – Nottingham- Old Cold Store
20/3 – Sheffield – The Shakespeare
21/3 – Newcastle – The Brandling Villa
12/4 – London – Oslo w/ Wolf People
15/4 – Newport – Le Pub w/ Keys
16/4 – Manchester – The Castle
17/4 – Todmorden – The Golden Lion
18/4 – Bexhill on Sea – Record Shop Day at Music’s Not Dead
26/4 – High Wycombe – Ramblin’ Roots Revue
1,2,3/5 – Kilkenny Roots (IRL)
9/5 – London – Daylight Music at Union Chapel
16/5 – Norwich – The Reindeer
26/5 – Liverpool – Violette Records at Studio 2, Parr Street
3-4/7 – Hastings Americana Festival

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