★★★★ (out of five)
NOT content with just using the label for Cara Dillon releases, Charcoal Records have also issued a smashing debut CD by singer-songwriting duo Winter Mountain.
The pair, Marty Smith from Donegal and JR ‘Joe’ Francis from Cornwall, met for the first time at Chicago’s Union Station as they were both intent on travelling to Memphis, TN.
Discovering their mutual love of vocal harmonies led to them winning a Battle of the Bands competition in the North of Ireland, giving them two days in a Derry recording studio which in turn led to a support slot opening for Cara Dillon.
Cara and husband/producer Sam Lakeman immediately signed them to Charcoal Records with Sam assembling an impressive bunch of musicians, recording and producing their debut album in several different studios.
The album is beautifully produced. The vocals are crystal clear with perfect harmonies and the opening track Shed A Little Light sets the tone.
While they both have nice individual voices, it’s really the sum of the two parts when the harmonies kick in that is their strength, along with the quality of their songs.
Is it folk or pop/folk? Who cares really because it’s a terrific, classy debut album full of strong material delivered with style and, of course, those brilliant harmonies that make this duo special.
I will be amazed if they don’t go on to become a major act and a big festival attraction. Winter Mountain is out now.