The Upshot: Despite the baggage of raising a family and the impracticalities of making it work on the road, there is an answer to a husband and wife making beautiful music together – and folding some of that hard-earned, real life experience back into their craft, making the work all the more powerful.
BY ERIC THOM
Charlotte Kendrick and Dan Rowe found each other through music. They both grew up playing it, bathed in its lifelong influences through childhood and beyond. The relatively introspective Kendrick couldn’t shake its grasp, despite a natural shyness, while Rowe formed a band early on and stuck with it for 15 years. That they would fall in love is not mystery but that they could make it work beyond the extreme rigors of raising a family, distinguishes them on many levels. Even better, this inaugural release, the aptly-named Worth the Wait, has resulted in a head-turning debut as one entity – Kendrick having released 3 Dan-produced solo discs, prior. Charlotte’s is the key voice, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar while Dan plays both electric and upright bass while serving up smooth, harmonic support. He’s also half the production team with exceptional guitarist Liam Bailey, who adds volumes with his electric/acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, Wurlitzer and vocals. Self-branded as Americana/Folk, this disc delivers on a somewhat nostalgic line of folk-rock from a time when the singer-songwriter sounds of Andrew Gold, Joni Mitchell and JD Souther melded with America, the Eagles and CSN – offering a slight revisit to the infectious wave of folk/country rock that overpowered radio back in the ‘70s, lifting spirits and ideals along with way. Why not? Just because life can prove to be less the party than was promised makes these 9 sturdy originals all the more valid, if not invaluable. Life delivers both light and dark and the semi-autobiographical honesty served up on Worth the Wait reveals the outcomes of the choices we make, towards navigating the course we choose – a common connector to us all. Yet this is no time warp. Worth the Wait fully grasps the consequences, turning them to advantage. With a powerful lead-off track, Charlotte’s sharp-edged, distinct voice – softened by acoustic guitar and fledgling banjo – builds “Another One on the Way” gradually. Within a minute, the addition of harmonies, a full band and a strong chorus crafted from a sturdy hook transforms it into a full-tilt song that sends a welcome chill down your back. This is the real world and it feels good. Kendrick’s voice grows on you in record time – its distinctive sharpness molding itself into a gentle yet expressive warmth well-suited to the honest edge of her lyrics. Add in (husband) Dan Rowe’s whisper-soft harmonies and the shivers come fast and furious as each song bursts into full blossom, given smart, tidy arrangements with a rich, full-band sound distinguished by a gentle bed of banjo and acoustic guitars. Four of the prettiest notes on the album might be those adorning the title track, oft repeated, compliments of Bailey’s electric guitar as Kendrick’s vocals meld with banjo to create the penultimate band track – firing on all cylinders – and impossible to ignore. The strong, bluegrass bent of “It’s Complicated” makes for the perfect soundtrack to do chores or cleaning house or anything else you can pull off when the kids are asleep – a mellowing moment. The sheer beauty of “Where Did I Go” proves another highlight – as Kendrick’s voice gets a lush workout while the Sweet Baby James-style backup vocals provided by Rowe lift the piece to ‘best-of’ status, further elevated by the rich backdrop of Bailey’s liquid-toned guitar and Brian Keane’s keyboards. The fiddle and dobro-rich “Six Years” ups the up-tempo country ante on this self-affirming take on the great unknown of relationship-building. The combination of Smith Curry’s Dobro skills grounded by fiddle, makes for the perfect complement to this buoyant, hook-inflected tribute to their relationship thus far. “Light The Way” is another great vehicle for Kendrick’s voice, reverently rendered with a tasteful blend of electric guitar and fiddle, creating another stand-out track. The banjo intro to “Hey Kid” might suggest levity yet the song is more an ode to sacrifice and self-identity – in light of choosing children over career – so shared by so many selfless parents answering the age-old, natural call of procreation. The addition of dual fiddle, Rowe’s ultra-warm acoustic bass and Khemani’s oversized percussion adds a positive takeaway, if not a soothing sense of gravity, to the piece.
Out on a high, “By Firelight” chugs along like a well-oiled house party on the back of Bailey’s exceptional Dobro, Khemani’s crisp traps and a wall of perky acoustic guitars. Goodbye Blue is a celebration of pastoral life, aided and abetted by the real-life drama of family life and grown-up challenges. In short, whether it leans on folk, country or bluegrass influences, there’s an intimacy and honesty to what’s going on here in untold proportions. It’s a far cry from the cutesy songs about kids around the campfire that so many others can’t seem to avoid. There are no dragons or ooey-gooey spiders required, nor would they make sense here. It’s simply a lovely, downhome take on life as we know it by a talented couple with kids, tastefully supported by equally talented friends. As such, it hits a nerve with anyone who copes with the real world on a positive, realistic basis, making it an encouraging salve against the weariness that sometimes comes with the territory.