..the performances are exemplary, the sound is magnificent, the songs are gorgeous, and I am insanely jealous—this is really wonderful. I love the drama. I love everything.
- Chris Kimsey, Rolling Stones Record Producer
The chemistry between their voices is palpable.
- Simon Redley, Music Republic Magazine
Music Republic Magazine October 2017 - Link to review
4 Stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
Blending voices is a skill. An art. Whether that be a duo, close harmonies, backing vocals or a full choir. It doesn’t always work. In this case, it very much does. The name’s Bond…not James; Grace and Aaron Bond, aka When Rivers Meet, the British duo who have delivered a highly accomplished debut album in “Liberty”.
The chemistry between their voices is palpable, and producer Chris West has got it dead right with the sparseness of much of the record, to allow the superb self-penned songs to breath and to place emphasis on the voices.
Grace has a gorgeous voice, she really does, and on some cuts, especially the second track in, “You Blinded Me”, she reminded me of Eva Cassidy’s sublime timbre. Aaron is no slouch as a singer either, as he proves both in the duo stuff and as lead singer on “Regrets & Lies”.
But the chemistry between them is the key to making this into an album that deserves major praise and widespread attention. Clearly they know each other well musically, and perhaps being husband and wife helps with the bond (see what I did there?)
They dropped an EP in 2014, joined by a percussionist. In 2016 after a chance meeting with Chris West, a platinum award winning producer who had been along to one of their live shows and was very impressed by their dynamics, When Rivers Meet travelled to his studio on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia to record this collection.
The studio was set in an idyllic location overlooking a waters meet and a mountain. After two weeks in the studio, they returned with virtually a complete album. Eight of the eleven tracks are self-penned, two are highly requested covers they play live and one is a song called Fingertips by songwriter Roy Villanis.
Two of the covers are BIG songs from BIG artists. Always a risk to tackle songs that are synonymous with superstar artists, and you do not get much bigger than Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
The set opens with the June Carter Cash-penned “Ring Of Fire”. Their version; intense and at the same time sweet, perfectly executed cover of an iconic song which has been sat waiting for these two to claim it as their own. A brave and bold move, which they pull off in fine style. Perhaps lose to Alison Krauss territory and that good too.
The jury is out for me on their version of “Suspicious Minds, of course made famous by the boy from Tupelo who became The King, but a song written by Mark James and also covered by country superstar Waylon Jennings and his wife Jessi Colter. The arrangement here doesn’t sit easy on the ear for me. The third cover here is a very nice song written by Roy Villanis, “Fingertips”. The other eight cuts written by the couple.
“You Blinded Me”, is nicely stripped back to expose Grace’s reverb-soaked voice and brush strokes of various guitars, gracefully played by multi-skilling producer Chris West. Infectious vocal “ahh ohhs” in the hook; and the production approach of just voice and guitars allows the beauty of the song to breath. Her old man probably popped out for a glass of Prossecco and a bowl of pasta in the sunshine! He’s back for the mid-tempo “Papered Trust”, where there’s nice light and shade between the two very different voices.
“Regrets & Lies” is a standout, with superb twangy restrained guitar from Chris West, conjuring up an infectious riff that glues this atmospheric, semi-rockabilly/Chris Isaac style atmospheric cut together. Aaron takes lead vocal on this moody track, which would not be out of place on a Tarantino soundtrack. Grace’s turn for the wander in the Italian sunshine while her old man puts his vocal down!
Grace gives us a sassy vocal on “Greed”,and she slings in some fine mandolin on the country folk ditty “Postpone”, before “Suspicious Minds”, which I commented on earlier. Trombone, trumpet and clarinet on the quirky “Can’t Pay My Way”, a title which sums up the life of a freelance music journalist, methinks! Twangy guitar sets the tone and the pair deliver some very strong vocals. There’s another two of their own songs before the closer, “Fingertips”. All decent tracks for sure.
The pair are sometimes compared to the now defunct US roots duo Civil Wars, but I don’t hear that. There is of course, the male and female duo of The Shires from the UK doing good things out there right now, and I’d put Grace and Aaron a tad closer to them than the US pair. But I’d say When Rivers Meet have their own sound and their own thing going on, so any comparison are pretty meaningless.
They are joined by players providing viola, drums, trombone, trumpet and clarinet, and as mentioned; Chris West on guitars. Aaron plays acoustic guitar and Grace gives us mandolin and violin. No bass guitar on this record, but there is kazoo and spoons (Actually, I made the last two up!)
I will say this; and I am not any way demeaning what Aaron brings to the party, but if Grace ever fancies a crack at a solo career, I’d pop into the local betting shop fast and lay some heavy money down on it being successful, with the right wind behind her. A very distinctive voice and “on trend” for today. T. Bone Burnett would be my choice as the man to produce and make it happen for her.
But back to the pair as they work today and their smashing debut album. You surely know you have made a damn fine record when the likes of Rolling Stones producer Chris Kimsey gushes: “…the performances are exemplary, the sound is magnificent, the songs are gorgeous, and I am insanely jealous – this is really wonderful. I love the drama. I love everything.” He is not wrong. Premium Bond indeed…
- Simon Redley - Music Republic Magazine
Americana Roots UK October 2017 - Link to review
Stylistically my first impression of When Rivers Meet's debut album 'Liberty' was that it had the makings of a very good modern folk album. Gradually as I got deeper into the early listening sessions it began to strike me that their approach differed hugely to most folk singer songwriters until it started to dawn that much of their approach has a deep 'Americana' feel, with some songs, even if they are not dark lyrically, creating a deep dark atmosphere. Much of that is a result of Grace Bond's beautiful haunting vocals on songs that are never over arranged, in fact in the main, quite sparse and with husband Aaron supplying some excellent harmonies, as well as occasional lead vocals, as a counter to her expressive beauty. It now strikes me that my first impression that they are a 'folk duo' is very far from the truth. There is a folksiness in their style, but there is also an unusual country take as evidenced by their exquisite version of the late great Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. They even plunge into some deep blues albeit a blues that incorporates a jazzy flavour, of which, more later, in fact they seem to have absorbed many different styles, the upshot being that this entire album is stylistically unlike anyone else that I can think of, likewise any genre I can think of if it comes to that!
This talented British husband and wife duo is the already mentioned Grace Bond who takes most lead vocals, fiddle and mandolin with husband Aaron Bond also on vocals as well as guitar. Eight of the eleven songs were written by the pair with the other three compositions being June Carter and Merle Kilgore's classic Ring of fire, Fingertips by Roy Villanis and Mark James's Suspicious minds, at least two of those songs showing their musical bravery by taking on such well known classics, although that is not a problem. Their treatment is so different and has such a strong originality of arrangement that the songs worked superbly.
I've seen 'When Rivers Meet' compared to the duo 'Civil Wars,' a comparison I don't really get. Other than the fact that both are duo's the latter's music has always struck me as being pleasant enough although I don't really feel that the depth of the songs and performances match up to those on this excellent album. Certainly the vocal sounds that Grace creates are beautiful but the depth, range and even a haunting eeriness are what set the duo apart and above just about any other duo playing in a similar generic field. With Aaron's vocals varying from a warm sympathetic counter to Grace's voice to a hard expressive quality that enables him to provide a high degree of dynamism and variety. When you put the two together it is pretty much 'a match made in heaven.' Generally there is so much restraint in the playing that the sound often appears to be far more sparse than it actually is and whilst the tempo's vary little, big changes aren't necessary on a recording that has such depth and variety, both texturally and sonically.
It takes some getting used to but the already mentioned album opener Ring of fire is a dark funereal version of a song that is incredibly well known so must really have taken some concentration (and nerve!) to record. There is a complete change of atmosphere and arrangement, this couple giving it a deep dark treatment with its sparse instrumentation of mandolin, violin and acoustic guitar allowing the spookiness to prevail. There is a shuffling percussion with a speedy electric guitar on Regrets and lies a song that has a 'rockabilly' beat and Aaron on lead vocal. Whilst the rockabilly comparison does hold good there is so much more to this exceptional song that has a deep yet mellow darkness, with a throbbing bass coming in latterly. The instrumentation changes are difficult to keep up with although to be honest there is very little instrumentation, it is just a fairly complex, if hugely rewarding song that I've been playing over and over, with the beat being so repetitive it is virtually an addiction! Postpone is a much more upbeat, up tempo song with the sprightly fiddle, percussion and chiming mandolin providing a nice full sound to accompany Grace's lead and Aarons harmony vocals. It is a composition that has a strong folksy feel, although that 'folksiness' is certainly not as restrictive as some generic stylings seem to be and there is an openness that expands the sound, depth and spaciness of the song. Finally, on Can't pay my way the mix of brass and deep chiming guitar with percussion gives the song an almost (Tom) 'Waitsian' atmosphere on a composition that has a nice blend of styles, with brass entering the fray and creating an old New Orleans jazziness with the trombone, clarinet and sax often working against each other. The two vocalists work the song as a harmonic duet which roots the sound and allows the remainder of the instrumentation to roam free!
I've already said that the duo are difficult to pigeon hole but it is gradually becoming apparent that they bring their own unique style to any song, regardless of its 'roots.' My feeling is that if they start to load their direction more towards the folk elements their uniqueness will start to dissipate but if they keep aiming in the direction that this album points, which certainly contains folk, but also jazz, country, blues and myriad other styles they will get the success that they are working towards and that this tremendous album more than hints at!
- Mike Morrison, Americana Roots UK
Folk Words July 2017 - Link to review
When an album includes cover tracks that make you think ‘those are versions I’ve been waiting for’ you know you’re on to something good. ‘Liberty’ from duo Rivers Meet, will probably reignite the folk-not-folk debate but that should not worry them in the least, classification fades in importance when your music is eclectic, individual and absorbing. There’s Americana sliced and diced with a sultry groove, there’s folk ballad and there’s jazzy elements, add lusciously layered harmonies and Rivers Meet, also known as Grace and Aaron Bond, will touch with a subtle seduction.
The opening track is ‘Ring of Fire’ and with no disrespect to the late great Mr Cash, arrives in a form that does it more than justice with an understated yet powerful presence, then a little further on the duo repeat the process with a stunning version of ‘Suspicious Minds’and an inspired take on ‘Fingertips’ by Roy Villanis. Beyond this, there are eight self-penned originals that maintain that powerful embrace, the stand outs being the languid ‘Papered Trust’, softly sensual ‘Regrets and Lies’, the pulse of ‘Sweet Dreams are Coming’ and the aching exquisiteness of ‘Need To Be’.
An album and a duo with some considerable distance to go ...
- Tom Franks - FolkWords.com
Flying Shoes August 2017 - Link to review
When Rivers Meet is British husband and wife team, Grace Bond (vocals, mandolin, violin, viola) and Aaron Bond (vocals, acoustic guitar); and they have one previously EP to their name. Produced by Chris West, and recorded in his own studio in Spain they wrote eight of the eleven tracks. Of the three covers two have a country heritage, “Suspicious Minds” was a big song for Elvis (Presley) but Waylon Jennings and his wife, Jessi Colter made it into a country song! Most people know of the June Carter Cash – Merle Kilgore song “Ring Of Fire”. Slowed down a mite the couple give it an interesting and semi-dramatic new spin. Roy Villanis’ “Fingertips” makes up the trio, and it sounds like one they could easily have written as Grace lays down a beautiful base. Her excellent handing of the lyrics is aided by West’s fine production. Back to “Suspicious Minds” the couple make a superb fist of it, the harmonies like with Jennings and Colter it contains no little magic (it is after all a timeless piece of writing by Mark James).
One of the best attributes of When The Rivers Meet is the manner in which they have gone about making the record, a great deal of work and research by them as they keep the music, flowing and varied. Highlights include moody ballad “Greed” and with New Orleans horns the jazz, blues warmed (trombone, trumpet, clarinet) “Can’t Pay My Way” (along with “Papered Trust”) bring something different to the table, and though different like with all the songs the fit could not be better. Busy little number “Sweet Dreams Are Coming” produces some of the album's finest harmonies and with steady rhythm, violin and banjo they sing of good times coming with them at the cross roads of their lives.
Final track “Need To Be” is a sweet ballad, and with Grace singing a tender lead it speaks of where the rivers meet, and with fine arrangements and support from her husband it rounds off the record in a sensitive fashion. Of a haunting feel you have “You Blinded Me”, and with Grace on lead vocals the affair is both tender and artful. As already noted no stone goes unturned in their search to provide the lyrics with the correct arrangements, and with their ability to harmonise the album has many pluses. “Papered Trust” has them doing just that, and with Grace impassioned tones arguably better than at any time on the record they have a winner.
- Maurice Hope, Flyinshoes
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