Review Archive

‘Long Before Light’ from The Onlies “… heritage coupled with originality of delivery”

(March 11, 2015)

There’s something unique in the sound of traditional American fiddle music - often emulated but rarely delivering the 100% purity of the original. So to hear an album of that ‘original’ sound brought to life and given an ‘extra’ Long Before Light by The Onlies front coveredge by a trio of young Seattle-based musicians is something of treat. The album ‘Long Before Light’ from The Onlies showcases their own particular brand of ‘fiddle-driven acoustic folk’, with banjos, guitars, mandolins and piano included in the mix, and a clear ‘feel’ for tradition in the vocals.

The true strength of this album lies in this trio’s acceptance of a common heritage coupled with an originality of delivery. The ear can identify a number of influences running through the music from Cajun zydeco to Celtic country dance, Scotland to Ireland, plus the obvious influx of American folk traditions, however the expression remains all their own. ‘Long Before Light’ not only delivers some excellent musicianship, it also illustrates the symbiosis between the musicians as they ‘spark’ off each other to create their music. From the opening jauntiness of ‘The Cheese Closet’ through the joined voices on ‘Past The Fog’ to the stringed-sparkle of ‘Skipping Stones/ North Fork’ and ‘Recast’ there’s clear compositional talent at work. They slip just as easily into the trad. arr. bracket with their arrangements of well-knowns’ such as ‘Jubilee’, the vivacious couplet ‘Moll Ha’penny/ Dennis Murphy’s’ and ‘Handsome Molly’.

At this point, for those that know them not, I’ll reveal that The Onlies have only 48 years between them, yes each one is only 16 years old. That’s right, bucket-loads of talent, musically accomplished with voices that match the messages - and so much lies before them. It’s enough to make an old journalist green with envy. Then again, they’ve given me the pleasure of listening to ‘Long Before Light’ so it would be churlish to begrudge them the inevitable success that’s already hovering overhead waiting to envelop them. 

The Onlies are Sami Braman (fiddle, guitar, vocals) Riley Calcagno (banjo, mandolin, guitar, octave fiddle, vocals) and Leo Shannon (fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, vocals) with guest musicians on the album Tristan Clarridge (cello) and RuthMabel Boytz (bass). ‘Long Before Light’ is produced by Tristan Clarridge of Crooked Still and The Onlies hold their album release party in Seattle 4th April 4 at Town Hall and if I still lived in Westlake, I’d be there for sure.

Read more about The Onlies here:

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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