The Hello Darlins - The Alders & The Ashes



The Hello Darlins, led by Romani-Canadian musician, Candace Lacina and world-renowned keyboardist Mike Little, is a roots collective of highly acclaimed Canadian session players and touring musicians. Since they first came together around five years ago, they’ve built a sizeable following, ignited initially by their highly acclaimed 2021 GO BY FEEL, debut album. The band has developed what has become their distinctive sound—dexterous and unpredictable jams with the full muscle of either Mike’s titanic soulful voice or Candace’s emotionally sweeter vocals, enhanced by brilliant keyboard work, thunderous but fluid drumming, funky and mighty basslines, inspired guitar picking, mixed with softer, country-inspired acoustic arrangements. This 17-song record stuns with radiating harmonies and toe-tapping instrumentation, as it inhabits a vast expanse of blues-influenced rhythms and sparse country-folk instrumentation—not to mention a healthy dose of bucolic country attitude. The songs, mainly penned by Candace, deal with everyday life experiences, from break-ups through to facing up to personal challenges to story-led deep narratives, that will hook the listener in. Without a doubt this is the most lyrically daring, sonically blazing album so far of the year.

The three key members, Candace Lacina, Mike Little and guitarist Murray Culver, travelled down to Los Angeles’ famed United Recording Studios to work with engineer Ross Hogarth. They were joined in the studio by guest musicians, bassist Bob Glaub and drummer Chad Cromwell. Though Candace handles most of the lead vocals, Mike’s perfectly weathered vocals are a match made in heaven. Better Days, is a delicate slice of Muscle Shoals soul that finds him searching for lightness, trying to make sense of a world gone awry, and somehow finding humanity even when it feels impossible. There’s a subtle gospel feel provided by the swirling organ and soulful harmonies. With his raw vocals, thick and nasty guitar tones, and preternaturally locked-in rhythm section, When The Sea Meets The Sky might be the most soulful rock record—or perhaps the most rock soul record—you’ve ever heard. Do It Up Right, a funky revelation, drips with soul courtesy of some dynamic organ work and Mike’s bluesy vocals. There’s no way anyone can sit still while this the dynamic soulful vibe takes hold. It’s almost as if Otis Redding had returned to stake his claim; that’s how deep down in the soul Mike Little and the musicians take it.

Though Candace tends to lean more towards country with What Is A Broken Heart For, with its full-bodied 1990s country vibe and Highway 355, she shows that she can also get down and soulful with the gritty Devil In The Dark. Driven by pulsating drums, Mike’s signature organ wails and soulful background vocals, she delivers blues rock with a whole lot of boogie. She takes a more light-hearted approach with the hoe-down flavoured Died With His Boots On. A rollicking, narrative-driven sound with fiddle to the fore, instead of death, Candace focuses on joy and celebration with her memories of her late fiddle-playing grandfather. With a mischievous wink jumping through the speakers, she even breaks into a yodel.

Perseverance and patience reign on the glimmery melodic Reasons To Cry, Candace knowing exactly the right moments to create a calming, breathy hush with her vocal. The lyrics are heartrending as she finds herself in a hopeless situation of utter despair and the cruel loneliness of empty numbness suffused with love, hope, and joy. The song is wrapped in an exquisite bare-boned musical arrangement to match her chilling, emotional vocals. The Hello Darlins demonstrate themselves to be masters of their craft, stringing together a varied mix of disparate musical styles into an album that plays like a living, breathing being, all heart and full of hope.

March 2024