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Album Review
Free Rein

Free Rein
by The Unfaithful Ways

Aeroplane Music

Review Date
24th November 2011
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

Following on from their 2009 EP, Lyttleton Harbour four piece The Unfaithful Ways return with their debut full length album Free Rein. An exercise in ornate country, folk and rock crossbreeds, for the duration of Free Reinís eleven song sequence, The Unfaithful Ways rope in additional musical assistance from a small crowd of associated musicians, bringing ample lashings of organ, fiddle, trombone, pedal steel, harmonica, banjo and trumpet to their voice heavy traditional quartet format.

Wonderfully pictorial, the extravagant instrumentation and arrangements utilized across the record conjure all the classic motifs of Americana (camp fires, horses galloping across fields, small country towns, etc) as filtered through a decidedly New Zealand "Southern Man" lens. And while The Unfaithful Ways style themselves as directly threaded to the musical legacy of The Byrds, Townes Van Zandt and The Eagles, much of their instrumentation and form, at least to my ears, draws closer parallel to our other great musical linesmen, Tex Morten and John Grenell.

In terms of actual vocal delivery, singers Marlon Williams, Ben Woolley and Seb Warne utilize a relatively clear voiced style, one which conveys their lyrical content with impressive clarity, and at points almost hangs together with a choral feel (which is probably a by-product of time spent singing in choirs). Lyrically, as befits their musical style and expressive tones, The Unfaithful Ways essentially tackle a full spectrum exploration of the human condition, all irrationalities and warts left in the mix. In line with this, the majority of the songs on Free Rein tackle the gloomier side of life, lapsing deeply into the down and out blues side of rock, folk and country. You know, loves lost, days spent with a bottle of spirits as your only friend, all the usual tropes. And funnily enough, despite still being by the looks of it relatively young guys, they carry these songs off well. In reality, you should have to be a lot older, and far more grizzled to do what The Unfaithful Ways do, but hey, for whatever reason, they do it well.

These guys have been a pretty big deal lately, and I can completely see why. Lyttleton Harbour has become a geographic location associated with good local music, and if The Unfaithful Ways is any indication of the quality of post-earthquake music we can expect from the Canterbury region over the coming months, I'm very very excited about what comes next. We haven't had it this good for linesman music in New Zealand for a long time, so hopefully this flame doesn't burn out one iota too soon.

Trouble I'm In
Trouble I'm In, by The Unfaithful Ways
From: Free Rein, (2011)