REVIEW: Georgia Fair – “All Through Winter”

Georgia Fair - All Through Winter

It’s been a while coming for Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley – the duo also known as Georgia Fair. Their debut album – All Through Winter – is due for release on the 21st of October, and it’s fair to say there’s been a few people waiting on it. Touring with The Panics, the band have been showing off their new work recently, but how does it sound recorded?

Starting with the slow-burning “Times Fly”, the album kicks off with a strong start. “Blind” brings out intense, rolling drums, and “Where You Been?” is the perfect first single from the release.

Georgia Fair weave these beautiful vocal harmonies into folk music that goes beyond the whole cutesy idea of finger-picking some guitar chords. With lush strings and deep guitar, the songs sound mature and layered. It’s a much fuller sound, and it’s all the more interesting because of it. The best bit: the production is beautiful and sounds just as it should.

What it lacks for the most part, are stand out hooks. All Through Winter is rewarding when it has your attention, but rarely does the album grab it naturally. “Blind” and “Simple Man” both seem to take it up a notch, and so do a couple of others, but nothing really jumps out. Aside from that, too often do Wilson’s vocals feel under-stated. He has an amazing voice, and when really pushed out during some choruses, it explodes, sounding stronger than ever. Unfortunately, too often it feels restrained.

Maybe this album isn’t for me. When cherry-picking tracks for analysis, everything positive I’ve said stands – beautiful folk harmonies alongside a matured sense of song-writing – and it’s consistent in this sense too! But as an album, the release can’t sustain my interest. I feel I’d enjoy it more as an EP. Chances are, that’s more a reflection on my personal tastes.

Whether or not you listen to this as an album or not, if you dig great melodic folk music, you should have a listen. Georgia Fair have made leaps and bounds in many ways, and while I don’t think they’ve found their feet just yet, they’re getting pretty damn close.

LIVE: The Panics, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (22-09-11)

Avalanche City opened the night, and I’m glad they made the trip from New Zealand. Their folkish hooks came coupled with instrumentation that felt both delicate at times, and very powerful at others. The rapid guitar picking jumped up from the tinkling additions of a glockenspiel and what seemed like a cross between a mandolin and a banjo (actually, according to Wikipedia it’s a “manjo” – you learn something new every day!). They were surprisingly good for a support act, and it was nice to start the night with a band that has not only a firm grasp of their sound, but also the talent to bring it across live. The only things I think their music and live show would benefit from is more explosive and giant moments. The potential to build them is there, they just need to take hold of it. But Avalanche City put on a great show, and are well worth checking out.

Next up were Georgia Fair. Known more widely as the band that wrote the song on that milk commercial, don’t be too quick to put them in a box (as great as “Picture Frames” is), because these guys have matured and developed since then. The softly-spoken folk numbers filled the bar, in-between guitar stabs and intricate backing melodies, and the band poured forth emotion, showing off both older tracks and newer unreleased ones.

Provided Georgia Fair don’t fall into the over-populated group of bands I call the “Boy And Bear niche”, they’ll have a great future ahead of them. With a sense of pace and melody, it would be interesting to see the band bring some bite into their sound, because I think it’s something they could definitely achieve well.

At any rate, Georgia Fair have a sense of style grounded in beautiful harmonies, and right now that’s more than enough to provide an entertaining set. The duo are preparing to release their full-length debut in about a month’s time, so make sure you look out for it!

There’s something quintessentially Australian about The Panics. From their modest yet enthusiastic stage presence, to their grandiose melodies, there’s something about them that screams out “geniune” and “down to earth”. It’s an attractive quality in musicians really, because no one enjoys going to a gig where the musicians’ ego crowds out the room. The fact that The Panics carry themselves in such a way does everything to reinforce the passion they have for their craft, and when you’re watching a passionate band perform, there isn’t much more you can ask for.

Running through a slew of older tracks, with a handful from their 2007 J-Award-winning album Cruel Guards, the band also introduced the polite crowd at ANU Bar to a few numbers from their latest release – Rain on the Humming Wire. That said, understandably “Don’t Fight It” received a very warm welcome, as did “Majesty” and “Get Us Home” (which was brought out for the encore).

As subdued as some of their songs are, the band’s energy and playing carried the performance. Jae Laffer’s very distinctive movements showed a man absorbed in the moment, and between the relaxed grooves and frenetic playing of the other members, the band didn’t drop a beat (from what I could tell).

It would’ve been particularly impressive to see them bring a brass player on tour for some of the instrumentation, in particular the melodies in “Don’t Fight It”. But I understand the logistics of these things make it often not worth the hassle, and the song didn’t suffer as a result which is the important thing.

The Panics put on a tight show, with impressive playing and a warming stage presence. It’s hard not to enjoy a band like this, especially when you have a perfect crowd. Their blend of alt-rock with slow-crawl country influences may not be entirely ground-breaking musical territory, but The Panics prove that when sometimes coupling a considerable amount of talent and dedication, a performance becomes less about challenging an audience and more about pulling them in – and that’s exactly what they do.