Earlier in the year, The Far North released their debut single “This House is Ours”. It was clear to hear how Lee Wylding (Vocals/Guitar) and Andie Packer (Drums) have taken influences from music from the ’60s and ’70s. As a result, their focus is around the art of storytelling. To accompany this, they have chosen an American soundtrack. It received deserved praise and saw it receive airplay from radio stations in the UK and globally. It included airing on BBC 6 Music (Chris Hawkins), Regional BBC, and Liverpool Live 247 (Billy Butler).
“This House is Ours”, and the follow-up single “Runaway” offer a taster from their new album Songs for Gentle Souls. Wylding describes the new release as “Little vignettes about love, loss, hope and sometimes leaving the past behind and starting fresh with those who mean the most to you. It was written over the course of the last two years. We hope we’ve captured a nostalgic vibe via early Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young through a fresh sound to the present day”.
He says the band’s ethos is “To go back to a traditional way of crafting songs. Where every lyric is wrought out, every drum beat and guitar line is played from the heart. In turn, making the songs meaningful and of value. We wanted to make an album which can be played in full at once, rather than just cherry-picking the best songs and releasing ten singles. This approach isn’t something at the forefront of popular music in 2020”. Now, Songs for Gentle Souls is available for the world to hear.
The opening two tracks of Songs for Gentle Souls were the singles “Runaway” and “This House Is Ours”. Not only does it give the fans a familiar welcome, but it also perfectly demonstrates their talents. Both offer a warm Americana sound that has charm and highlights their storytelling qualities. Out of the two, it is “Runaway” which captures the most attention. It is clear to hear this duo’s influences at work as it is all about the story and its delivery. A great example of this is during the chorus as they both combine to deliver the lines “Runaway with me / we can do the things we do / Cos we are so beautiful / Runaway with me / let the people stop and stare / Cos I don’t really care”.
Following on are “Branches” and “When We Were Young”, which fans of The Fireflies will recognise. Wylding and Packer have reworked these songs from their former band to create more magic for this album. As much as the quality of music has been high so far, “Branches” is the first track to stand out from the rest. It offers a slower pace with its country vibe and offers the listener something different.
With everything stripped back, it lets Wylding create a special moment with his delivery of this story. The lyrics have so much to say and do so with detail. An example of this is the lyrics “If I find a cure, for what makes me weak / Absolve the fear inside, and let me sleep / If you lose me, to the soil I go / Being me back to life and hold me close”. It is a beautiful tale from beginning to end.
When “Compass Pointing” arrives, it offers something different to those before it. Instantly the acoustic guitar with supporting clap/stomp sound draws in the listener. With the mood set, Wylding comes in with the lines “Crash crash crash on the water / My lungs fill as I gasp for air / Round round round the torrent flows”. It all comes together to create more of a radio-friendly vibe. This would be a great entry point for new fans. Next comes “My Heart” which slows things back down with some great work on the guitar. Yet again, the softer tone lets the vocals steal the limelight.
As the album continues, it showcases more of The Far North’s compelling storytelling qualities with songs such as “Stronger Together” and “Grace”. Sandwiched in between is the sublime “Sleep Tight Songbird”. It is difficult not to be impressed by the balance of warmth and honest emotion to Wylding’s vocals. It gently flows effortlessly throughout, which his emotive tone is enhanced further by the addition of strings.
From the opening lines to “1994” there is something about the vocal tone which feels different to those prior. The delivery of the words has more of a personal quality. Maybe the old friend in the story is someone special to them. It is highlighted during “When I was a boy, I had a friend / I saw him today, it’s been 20 years / As we hugged each other, we said we’re like brothers / And I know yes I know, it only feels like yesterday”. The use of strings and the piano enhance the emotional atmosphere which Wylding projects with his voice. All of these elements intertwine to create yet another outstanding track from this release.
The Far North’s ‘Songs for Gentle Souls’ has an irresistible charm to storytelling
Closing the album comes “Gentle Souls”. It is yet another beautiful moment which is thanks to more delicate vocals as well as sublime use of a gentle guitar and piano. Again, their songwriting stands out, especially with its chorus. It feels simplistic in its message “This is a song for gentle souls like me and you / We’ve got the love / We’ve got the light / To see us through”. However, like Songs for Gentle Souls as a whole has proven, it is all about the delivery. As the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. A sign that The Far North has created something special.