Centred on the songwriting of guitarist and singer Rhys Kelly, north of England based Ten Fields produce bittersweet music that's a cut above the average indie folk band. Joined by his guitar-playing brother Nathan and bassist Rick Robinson plus additional drums, guitar, banjo, pedal steel and strings, the band produce a sound inspired by contemporary folk and Americana that resonates with the listener immedietly.
Between the low-key dramatics of opener 'Don't You Get Me Wrong' and the closing 'Under a Gathering Sky', Kelly demonstrates a knack for writing catchy, confessional heart-on-sleeve songs that are brought beautifully to life by the assembled company. The American influences are subtle, surfacing occasionally, as on 'Summer Rain' complete with mournful fiddle, and especially on the more upbeat 'Don't Forget My Love' where banjo and pedal steel add authenticity.
There's a distinct sense of nostagia running through much of the material but the soul-searching introspection of songs like 'Always' is tempered by the more upbeat material, including the positively jaunty 'Coming Round'. Melancholy, though, seems to be Rhys Kelly's default setting as self-explanatory song titles 'Separate Ways' and 'Save Me' clearly indicate.
Eliza Carthy may have spun the phrase first - at the least she used it for an album title - Anglicana. It's one of those imprecise terms we like so much that seems applicable to what are often new songs, but predominantly delivered through acoustic music which is clearly drawing on folk traditions and throughout has a distinctly English feel but without anyone actually raising a flag. And that's a good enough description for the songs made by Ten Fields. Ten Fields is a five piece band based around singer-songwriter Rhys Kelly, with Nathan Kelley on guitar, Rick Robinson on bass, Sandy James on violin and Joe Cox on drums. Winter Sun - Summer Rain is their début album and the sound they produce is elegantly restrained, frequently showcasing a weeping violin line, over a series of mostly love songs - songs that focus on the melancholy sides of love - the unrequited, the unconvinced as well as the more obvious old and lost love. So Don't You Get Me Wrong see's Rhys Kelly "trying to remember if you said that you would ever be the one to promise comfort and release"; whilst on Always the line "I wait for you to call for me / to hear your laugh upon the wind / to see your smile in everything" is the plaintive wish of a man unwillingly far from home and all that entails.
With a strong sense of place conveyed by the tunes, there are several of the songs which bring to mind last year's album from Merrymouth, and a few - such as Summer Rain - bring to mind the late-lamented Grassoline with a growling vocal unfolding the sights, feelings and torn emotions that well up during a rainy summer day's hill trek. Don't Forget My Love ups the tempo for a sure fire toe-tapper. A couple of times Ten Fields display some Americana flourishes - most successfully on Separate Ways with some nice pedal steel. The final track, the piano led Under A Gathering Sky, brings together all the best of what has gone before for on a song which celebrates the twin riches of obscurity and true love, with Rhys Kelley bringing out his most emotionally charged vocal of the album. All in all Winter Sun - Summer Rain is an accomplished début, more than worthy of a listen.
Winter Sun—Summer Rain, by Ten Fields. This beautifully crafted first album seems way too polished to be a debut. The UK-based Ten Fields—singer/songwriter Rhys Kelly, his brother Nathan and their friend Rick Robinson—deliver melodic, atmospheric folk rock with a touch of alt-country. Reference points include Neil Finn and the late Gerry Rafferty, whose voice Rhys’s recalls. The engaging, full-bodied music—which features several supporting players—incorporates violin, cello, mandolin, pedal steel and banjo.
Album: Winter Sun - Summer Rain
Label: Self Released
As I started listening to Ten Fields, it occurred to me that it's been a while since I've listened to an albums band whose release is populated with tracks that could easily be singles. Though different in style, "Winter Sun - Summer Rain" has an Americana flavour, to both Crowded House and REM, both bands came to mind as I was listening.
Whilst "Winter Sun - Summer Rain" has got an Americana flavour, it's more like a base over which Rhys Kelly, the band's principle songwriter lays his craft and does so with a real verve. There is a distinct poetry in the way he puts the words together. It has quite a visual element to it, making it easy to drop into the mindset of the writer and pick up on his vision.
Ten Fields are a band that are easy to listen to, the melodies are arrangements provide a comfortable environment for the words to make themselves at home in and yes, it also means that this is one of those albums that you can just take pleasure in as it refreshes like a well timed cup of tea, but like tea, there is also the cup that you take time over, the one where you absorb the more complex flavours and get your thoughts together. "Winter Sun - Summer Rain" is both the tea bag that's thrown into the mug for instant gratification and the loose leaf that goes into the warmed pot when you have that time to sit back and do it properly.
I have to say it's a shame the album doesn't come with a lyric booklet and I can't find them on the band's website either, but in all honesty, it's a minor gripe and these are songs that should be heard, rather than poetry to be read, even if the lyrics feel like they could be.
As you can probably tell, I'm quite enamoured by Ten Fields they do have that classic albums band feel about them and hopefully we'll be hearing a lot more from them.
"A brilliant album... I've listened to the album a few times now and the only problem I have with it is trying to select a track for the show - they are all excellent." Jon Godfrey, The Troubadour Show
"Englishman, Rhys Kelly, willfully goes missing from his regular band to record great solo album as ten fields." Michael Park, The International Americana Music Show.
And some from some (no less important) listeners:
'Really enjoying the album - congratulations.' D.
Superbly crafted songs. Great musicianship. ***** G.
I bought your lovely album on iTunes and am listening to it now. The first track had me up and dancing around the room. You guys are amazing! S.
Lyrically sharp, interesting arrangements, nice alt-country feel... G.
A first class album. S.