Raintown - Acoustic Heart



Scotland’s Raintown release their most organic and rhythmically adventurous album to date. A tasty, inventive hash of timeless country, Celtic-inspired folk-pop with an edgy traditional sparkle … in essence ACOUSTIC HEART has the feel of a transitional record, where listeners have been invited to witness a band poised at the brink of change. Dispensing the rockier sounds of their previous work, husband and wife Claire McArthur Bain (vocals) and Paul Bain (vocals and guitar), give their American-inspired roots musical stylings a unique Scottish twist, while keeping that original spirit alive in their new material. They pull from a wide catalogue of musical palettes, including acoustic guitar, bouzouki, mandolin (Stevie Lawrence longtime band member and producer), fiddle, viola (Fiona Cuthill), Dobro (Dougie Stevenson), harmonica (Fraser Speirs), accordion, piano (Iain Duff), Uilleann pipes, whistles (Catherine Ashcroft), five-string banjo (Tim Black), cello (Wendy Weatherby), saxophones (Leon Thorne), trumpet (Douglas West) along with bass, drums and inventive percussion. 

The choices they make from a sonic standpoint also help to heighten the dramatic scope of the material. The pair’s vocals are both smooth and honey sweet, soulful and energetic, but their inexorable drive suggests that they are more than ready to challenge their comfort zone. In reality, they sound amazing: maybe radiant, billowing, even infectious. They inspire new thoughts, or better yet, are poised to reach out to a wider, more eclectic audience. They open strongly with the modern country sounds of Play It Loud, a carefree song inviting the listener to cast-off the mundane worries of the day with a night out on the town. A steady rhythmic beat, fiddle and banjo to the fore and Claire’s enticing vocals quite irresistible. If you like your country with no shortage of attitude, Day In The Sun, featuring Paul on lead, may be just what you’ve been looking for. Acoustic guitar strumming leads into a funky arrangement of harmonica, banjo, mandolin and a toe-tapping beat enhanced by the anthemic chorus.

Claire takes the lead on the gorgeous standout In Your Heartpulverising the heart into diamonds, rough-cut and powdery. Various acoustic instruments come into the mix to add colour and sensitivity to this heartfelt declaration of love. She also takes the lead on tunes like the powerful My Drum, My Beat and the despairing loss of My Whole World, but more often than not, they deliver powerful duet tunes like the up-tempo, anthem-driven Run With The Night and the softer One Love, with its inventive percussion and, repeated chorus. The sway and cascade of the buoyant Red Dress, with its opening accordion notes, infectious chorus, and ascending horn lines, that suggest 1970s soul dance classic, is yet another example of Raintown’s rich diversity of sound. They even throw a harmonica into the rich musical gumbo. In contrast, Thankful For It All, has a Celtic vibe with fiddle, Uilleann pipes and whistles, but the tune's real star is Claire’s mercurial voice, the perfect contrast to Paul’s masculine tones. They even bring in their daughter on the last line of the chorus to close a magnificent album, which just might be the beginning of a new chapter on Raintown’s career path.     


May 2024