West My Friend describe themselves as a three-piece Cascadian folk outfit – a term that I freely admit that I had to Google and that I’m still not sure if I have the correct meaning for. However, irrespective of their own descriptions and thoughts on their music, what they categorically and unarguably are is absolutely breath-taking contemporary folk artists with a passion and process that elevates them head and shoulders above their peers.
After a decade together as a band, West My Friend have released their fourth studio album In Constellation, a seven-track album that feels as natural as the wind through the trees. With an almost poignant and somewhat heart-rending style of folk, their music has long been a moving tribute of sound that could stir a heart as easily as a stone sends ripples through water. However, their stripped back and intimate feeling of old is polished to a whole new gleam and shine with In Constellation. This time the group are accompanied by a full orchestra and the result is both striking and resplendent. Much like the work of Gregory Alan Isakov, when backed up by such a versatile and moving orchestral medley, their music takes on a whole new life. No matter the content, no matter the melancholic nature that they may emit at times, their music is bolstered and uplifted by their freshly layered score, grandiose in nature and comforting ins style.
To make matters even more impressive of course is the fact that while this additional decadence is definitely there within their work, it stills retains that incredible sense of intimacy that the band cultivate. This feeling of a secret shared, of a story whispered to you and you alone; it is a feeling that persists no matter how much their accompaniment may swell and sway. Most likely that this is the result of the smooth and tender vocals with which they wrap their every word. Eden Oliver leads the charge with a voice so smooth and melodic that it could be the babble of a brook, so natural does it come across. Her passion and tenderness are deeply imbued in every word and when blended with the delicate harmonies they create as a collective the result is a single, unified voice that is simply heavenly.
The sheer decadence of the harmonies hidden within In Constellation is overwhelming as it flutters across the top of their grassroots stylings. It’s a culmination of some of the greatest musical minds and it brings a band who think so far out of the box as to question whether there was even one to begin with into the forefront of your mind. Beautiful, emotional and completely timeless, In Constellation might be one of the most moving and emotive albums of 2019.
Review by Joe Knipe