Rising River – A Cautionary Tale
May 14, 2016 • Kristin Moore
Guest blogger Kristin Moore reviews Nick’s next single off his forthcoming album — Rising River – a cautionary tale set in the hills of the Snowy Mountains and Victorian High Country.
Australian bluegrass/alt country troubadour Nick Payne of Dear Orphans fame is set to release the follow up single off his forthcoming album; the first - ‘Old Sydney Town’, hit the country music charts in 2015. The second, ‘Rising River’, was Recorded live in dobro player Jolyon Gray’s lounge room with only piano, snare, and backing vocals added later and minimal production, there’s an immediacy and ‘live’ feel to the track which really suits the alt/bluegrass tradition.
‘Rising River’ is a song steeped in the murder ballad tradition — it’s all there — the desperate man seeking vengeance, a bloody reckoning, a pursuit and the eventual suicide to avoid capture. The lilting melody, delicate harmonies and fiddle highlights serve as counterpoint to the violence of the story, we find ourselves singing along as we register what is actually happening to the characters. It’s a delicious counterpoint that is as old as bluegrass itself delivered in a thoroughly contemporary Australian voice.
Storytelling and a sense of place is as important to Nick as the music, and the genesis of this song came to him in a hut in the Snowy Mountains of NSW. The wild high country was home to many a man on the run, and many who came seeking a future and were driven to an early death by the harsh terrain and climate and the loneliness and isolation. Their ghosts can certainly be felt out there on a chilly moonlit night, and the echoes of our wild colonial past, which in turn contain the memories of our brutal history, are palpable in ‘Rising River’. Payne himself prefers to call the song a ‘cautionary tale’ rather than a murder ballad – after all, it is 2016 and hunting down a lover has contemporary resonance which he had very much in mind as he wrote the song.
It is this mixture of modern sensibility with a traditional musical and storytelling form that makes ‘Rising River’ so captivating and listenable. Another beautiful glimpse into what is shaping up to be one of the album releases of the year.
Kristin Moore 2016
Listen to “Rising River”
Download “Rising River”
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Production: Nick Payne, Lyn Taylor
Mixing: Glenn Santry – Heartbeat Studios
Nick Payne: Vocals and acoustic guitar
Carlyn Chen: Fiddle
Jolyon Gray: Backing vocals, mandolin
Lyn Taylor: Backing vocals
Michael Roberts (AKA Mickey Blue Eyes): Poorly tuned upright piano
Paul Sun: Double bass
Oscar Henfrey: Snare that annoyed the downstairs neighbour