As opening lines to albums go, “You may look at me and think the lord employed a fool to sit around and sing of nothing,” is a bold offering, but what R W Hedges lacks in warm introductions they more than make-up for in sweet and intriguing folk songs, their new album, The Hunters In The Snow, crafting subtle adventures that make for an immersive and often revelatory journey through various musical landscapes that rise and fall throughout, shifting in the light as they roll forward, restful and restrained.
Pieced together on a canal boat in London, and drawn from Seemingly pulled from the golden days of easy listening, the new record finds Roy Hedges and songwriting partner, producer, and label-mate Luca Neiri in beautifully compelling form, the collaboration coming after a chance meeting in Hyde Park brought the childhood friends back together, having previously played in bands together during their youth.
Guided by Neiri’s delicate vision, the new record is quietly dominated by its own restraint, the pair’s love for the Easy Listening era of the 1950s and 60s filtered through a keen ear for doo-wop and rhythm-and-blues, resulting in an album that finds a place all of its own in the hustle and bustle of this new world; existing as a tender escape from the busy London world that underpinned its creation, full of quaint retreats and charming idiosyncrasies.
Taking its dues from The Beatles and The Kinks, among other quintessentially distinctive British pop bands, The Hunters In The Snow weaves varying literary references - from Dickens and Dylan Thomas to Shakespeare - through its pastoral and patterned guitar landscapes, Hedges English lilt adding a palpable sense of poignancy to otherwise bright surroundings, the album always balancing the breeziness of the compositions with a dark turn-of-phrase that makes you re-evaluate your own place within these songs.
Drifting between fictional world and characters - ‘The Night Owl’ takes us from dark woods at night to Dutch East India sailors; ‘Signalman’ is inspired by a Dickens’ ghost story - to the personal and personable reflections found on the summer-pining ‘Nights Of Laughter’, and the sweet ode to friendship ‘Where We Came From’, the album’s focus on loneliness, love, and laughter in the face of it all give it a confessional quality that transcends the rich, storybook feel at its core.
“Someday, someone will remember you, but now you’ll have to leave the town behind” Hedges sings on the beautifully swaying closing track ‘The Town Where No Birds Sing’ and it’s a lyric that feels indicative of warm heart that shapes so much of The Hunters In The Snow; a confessional moment of poignancy that follows us down whichever road we find ourselves on, whether we know where it’s leading or not.