Review by Shannon Shumaker
There’s a reason why The Rails’ new album Fair Warning has received so much positive feedback over the past few months before its physical release in the US on January 20th. This album is the definition of folk, and I’m not talking the poppy, watered down folk music that seems to saturate the airwaves nowadays, I’m talking straight-up folk music with heritage, soul, and a story to tell. Fair Warning makes you feel something, and that’s one of the reasons why this album is so great.
Right off the bat, it’s impossible not to fall in love with James Walbourne and Kami Thompson’s breathtaking harmonies coupled with beautiful acoustic guitar. And the best part is, Fair Warning only seems to get better with every passing song. The harmonies between Walbourne and Thompson throughout the entirety of the album are on-point, the guitar work is beautiful, and the string section in songs such as “Breakneck Speed” and “The Jealous Sailor” are definitely worth mentioning as one of the strongest aspects of the album.
Another aspect that is worth noting is the versatility of this record. While some folk songs seem to sound similar or blend together, that isn’t the case with Fair Warning. Every track on this album tells its own story and because of this, has its own distinct sound, which keeps Fair Warning from becoming boring or repetitive. For instance, “William Taylor” has a more country feel to it in the guitar work, which is a nice change of pace. “Younger,” which precedes “William Taylor” is one of the slowest tracks on the album, but it’s also one of the most beautiful songs both vocally and musically - the emotion in Walbourne’s vocals is almost palpable. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Panic Attack Blues” is darker and more fast-paced, full of angry lyrics and raw emotion. “Habit” is the perfect slow, outro closing track that really makes Fair Warning feel theatrical.
It’s hard to choose a favorite song on Fair Warning, let alone a favorite aspect about the album. While some tracks a very vocally and story-driven, (see “Bonnie Portmore” or “Send Her To Holloway”) there are other songs that shine musically, as well, such as “Panic Attack Blues” or “The Jealous Sailor.” There isn’t one part of Fair Warning that is stronger or better than another. The beautiful storytelling only serves to compliment the thoughtful songwriting and musicianship, creating a rich sound that can only be found on real folk albums with as much soul as this soon-to-be classic. The sound and the stories that The Rails have created on Fair Warning are timeless and memorable.
Listen to "Breakneck Speed" "The Jealous Sailor" or "Panic Attack Blues"