Cynics might be tempted to dismiss Underhill Rose as far too sweet and sincere to give them the necessary edge up. After all, they don’t dwell on politically charged topics or ponder societal ills or fret about disillusionment with the way things are. Instead they proffer a cheery sound that brings to mind an unlikely blend of Fleetwood Mac in their mid ‘70s prime and a group of amiable bluegrass bards holding forth in back porch environs. Such nice young ladies… Clearly, their parents must be proud
The core of the band — Eleanor Underhill (banjo, harmonies) Molly Rose (vocals, classical guitar) and Salley Williamson (harmonies, upright bass) –coalesced after a chance meeting between Rose and Underhill at an impromptu performance at Warren Wilson College, which the two were attending at the time. The duo found an immediate musical kinship, leading to a consensus that they ought to form a band. Williamson joined the duo in 2011. Their self-titled debut appeared in 2012, with its successor, Something Real, following a year later. At the same time, they managed to successfully expand their touring base, reaping critical kudos in the process and gaining some traction on the charts at the same time.
It’s left then to The Great Tomorrow, the band’s third album to date and certainly their most accessible, to provide the means for their big breakthrough. And yet, while the title suggests bold new beginnings, it’s not so much about starting from scratch, but rather refining a sound that made them endearing in the first place. The combination of cheery harmonies and the album’s rustic arrangements give this set of songs an easy, affable feel that’s evident every step of the way. Opening track “Our Time Is Done” finds them exploiting the familiarity factor, its shimmering guitars and quiet, steady stride sounding a lot like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” if, that is, the Mac suddenly relocated themselves to a rootsier realm. Don’t however mistake this for mere mimicry; the irrepressible chorus gives it all the hooks needed.
“Go thee well my darling, my darling, go with the sun,
Go thee well my darling, my darling, our time is done.”
Molly Rose’s Stevie Nicks-like vocals further affect the embrace, adding a homespun essence to these smoothly shellacked melodies. Banjos, fiddles and a gentle ramble and sway further ensure a sense of serendipity, which, with the exception of the unusually assertive “Shine” and the seductive and surreptitious “Straight Up,” keeps to a consistent pace. It’s an unusually pleasant approach, but one that helps ensure Underhill Rose’s seemingly effortless appeal.
Of course, affable ensembles that based themselves in bluegrass are practically the norm these days, making it more difficult for an unassuming outfit like Underhill Rose to gain any kind of edge. Fortunately, the sound they opt for is so soothing and suggestive, it turns on talent as opposed to any over the top designs. If justice prevails, The Great Tomorrow will open the door to the wider awareness they so decidedly deserve.