This debut album, Standing At The Precipice, from Chicago duo Natalie Alms and Ollie Davidson – Almond & Olive – are very serious in what they present here. Songs that explore life, loss, personal triumph and trauma and their view of the world aren’t to be taken lightly. I know we’ve heard all this before, and especially at this time you may think “enough misery or heavy messages. I’m on overload” but the music itself is, indeed, what saves this album from being too much. Working through stripped down arrangements, led by Ms. Alms’ banjo and Mr. Davidson’s acoustic guitar, the duo get personal in many of the songs, which is a noble and risky thing to do, but kudos for having the willingness to do so.
Case and point, the album’s title track, “Standing At The Precipice”, was originally inspired by the apocalyptic imagery of literature and television, but took on a new life with personal meaning. Mr. Davidson says, “As a metaphor for our band, we are truly standing at the precipice, surveying the future ahead of us while we try to navigate through the pitfalls of our personal and professional lives.” Obviously getting right to the heart of the matter, although the music is tempered sweetly with strident acoustic guitar, harmonica and an uptempo rhythm, the lyrics do ring darkly (“…but the books that we’re reading don’t explain what we’re looking to find…”) – ominous, considering the time we’ve just entered; “We Will” has a mournful quality and starkness that does echo the traditional work of Pete Seeger (it could be the banjo); “Mulberry Hill” has a warm, country feel and is one of the album’s standout tracks and “Long Night” is a finely structured piece that starts with just the guitars and voices but builds up with mandolin and pedal steel to heighten the drama.
This is a good beginning for Ms. Alms and Mr. Davidson; hopefully, they’ll be able to expand further on the countrified arrangements as it gives their songs a greater emotional impact. A nice release; low key and early in the year, at a time when something meaningful is necessary.
Standing At The Precipice will be released on Friday, January 27th, 2017