Kip Winter and partner Dave Wilson are an English duo, masquerading under the name Winter Wilson, whose new album, Far Off On The Horizon, is released in February, and rather good it is too! Or, rather, it WOULD be, if only…well, I’ll get to that later.
The pair have been playing on the folk scene, and producing albums for quite a while (eight now, in total), but in 2012, after redundancy, they decided to turn professional, and are currently on tour with the mighty Fairport Convention, no less! This album is the follow up to 2016’s Ashes And Dust, and the tried and trusted folkie instrumentation and arrangements are here in abundance. Lovely vocal harmonies, banjos, acoustic guitars, fiddles, accordions and even (I think) a harmonium all fight for the ears’ attention. And after a few years of listening to rootsy American music, it’s nice to hear some English accents again! Kip reminds me a little of Kate Rusby in places (though bizarrely she sounds like June Carter Cash on the country-rockish ‘Hard Walkin‘) and Dave sounds a little like Steve Ashley (to my ears at least) in places.
Whilst it is easy to label this as a folk record, the 12 songs are all, as far as I can tell, contemporary (no finger in the ear, traditional sea shanties or murder ballads here) and they are, by and large, well crafted and interesting. A couple of them display slight Americana leanings, but I won’t hold that against them! Standouts (such as they are) must be the traditional sounding ‘I Cannot Remain‘, and the aforementioned ‘Hard Walkin‘.
And that’s where the ‘if only’ comes in. The issue with it is not the vocals, and certainly not the impressive musicianship; no, where it falls down is that the album doesn’t really grab the attention in the way you would hope, nothing shouts “PLAY ME NOW”. Part of the problem is the production, as they seem to have recorded this at home (I’m guessing) and engineered and produced it themselves. Whilst the DIY ethos should no doubt be applauded, I feel it sounds rather too much like a demo. No doubt a bigger budget and a top quality studio would bring out the best of them, but on this showing, Winter Wilson are leaving me a little cold, despite my earlier comments to the contrary.