Rabbit Wilde - Southern Winters
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Southern Winters (Self-released, 2015)

Rabbit Wilde

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

The definition of "Americana" music has expanded to the point where fans will either enjoy big tent or get lost in an expanse with no fixed landmarks. Bands like Rabbit Wilde, hailing from greater Seattle, clearly don't mind the company of others or crashing influences. You probably have some sense of what you're in for when you know the sound incorporates copious amounts of cello, ukulele and kick drum. Their 2013 release "The Wild North" threw elements of Appalachian stomp and gospel into the mix of their trademark harmonies and mandolins.

What comes next isn't fully answered by this five-song EP. It's a preview of an album out in 2016, "The Heartland." The indicators are that we have a strong Celtic influence - if you admire bands like Of Monsters and Men or The Lumineers, you should be on board.

Everything gels right away, with the opener "Howl." Nathan Hamer's mandolin and Miranda Zickler's sweet voice carry the listener away to a big night out on the town, even if it's just dancing in the street.

From that highlight, there's lesser pickings. "The Road" still qualifies as excellent, full of optimism on tap. The band excels at multi-part harmonies. All four members are credited on vocals with a diverse gender mix straight down the middle. Lyrically, you won't find more naturalism this side of Navajo poetry ("I am the branches/And the river and the bird/And you are the stillness standing silent at the shore").

But the group suffers from a "More is More" philosophy. Every serene moment of one voice with one instrument gets invaded by a wave of hyperkinetic drumming and strumming. If the melody isn't strong enough to withstand the onslaught (as in the closer, "My Heart is a Wandering Vessel"), it just becomes too much. At least half of this record consists of songs choking for air, particularly given the deep ponderings going on in the words. To be sure, Rabbit Wilde has many talents - if only they didn't feel obligated to show them all off at once.

CDs by Rabbit Wilde

The Heartland, 2016 Southern Winters, 2015

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