Release Date: June 16th 2018
Silver Wolf Band are a folk rock trio based in Goose Bay, Labrador. After initially forming as a four piece, they tested the waters with the ‘Jam The Blues’ EP in 2010 before going on a five year hiatus the following year. After reforming as a three piece, they decided to cement their return to the local music scene by writing and recording their debut album. The resulting product, ‘Pockets Filled With Rocks’ confidently showcases a talented and ambitious band who are resolutely aware of their sonic identity.
An ethereal-sounding set of piano chords gently open the album, before introducing acoustic guitar and vocals to commence the main body of ‘A Thousand Years’. One of the band’s biggest selling points immediately becomes apparent; frontman Jamie Jackman’s vocals. Jackman makes use of his full-bodied tenor voice to deliver his lyrics in a soft, yet confident manner. This allows the vocal track to effortlessly sail atop the arrangement of piano, acoustic guitar and drums, giving it a real storytelling quality. The track also makes fantastic use of dominant seventh chords to pivot from section to section, which serve as excellent transitions and will undoubtedly keep the listener on their toes.
‘Butter and Snow’ opens with a lively set of guitar and piano chords, which are accompanied by picked acoustic guitar lines. Whilst the band are confidently rooted in the folk and easy-listening genres, each track has an optimistic, jovial and nostalgic feel about it. This is a fantastic selling point and something I’d strongly recommend the band place at the forefront of their marketing. Particular praise on this track goes to the acoustic guitar solos before and after the final chorus, which I felt were brilliantly crafted and melodically sound. At this point, it also becomes apparent that the band has a fantastic focus on melody. Each vocal melody is well-thought out and instrumental breaks usually see the vocal melody being imitated on either guitar or piano, which makes the material very catchy.
‘Autumn Wondering’ features a great use of backing vocals, which are often presented as a canon. At this point, my attention turns to the band’s arranging style. Pianist Matthew Barrett primarily focuses on extended harmony and arpeggios, which effectively fill out the midrange and form a solid foundation for the strummed acoustic guitar accompaniment on many tracks. Drummer Justin Jackman often keeps his parts simple and sparse, primarily employing fills to aid the band in smoothly transitioning from section to section. This shows a very strong awareness of the needs of the songs themselves and shows Jackman has kept this at the forefront of his mind whilst writing his parts. I found it interesting that each track features bass guitar, despite the band not having a bass player. I felt the bass guitar served as strong infrastructure to glue the arrangements together and I’d suggest the band look into the possibility of recruiting a session bass player to best represent their sound in a live setting.
‘North Atlantic April’ features possibly one of the strongest choruses on the entire album. The song’s hook is embellished with a rich female backing vocal section, which adds a real presence to the chorus and truly livens up the arrangement. It’s also worth noting that female backing vocals work especially well against Jackman’s gentle tenor voice, which is a ball I’d very much encourage the band to continue to pick up and run with. However, it would also be worth considering how they’d like to best represent this aspect of their sound in a live setting. ‘Canoe’ has a much darker vibe to it, yet the lyrics effectively retain their signature jovial and nostalgic qualities. At this point, it’s clear that the band have an incredibly well-channeled and strongly-focused sonic identity. They certainly have a thorough understanding of their signature traits and aren’t afraid to use them to their full potential. They’re overtly confident in their genre and are able to keep their sound varied without losing focus. This is arguably one of the band’s strongest qualities and one to be unashamedly proud of.
‘October Already’ features a lullaby-like piano line and a wonderful section of antiphonal backing vocals towards the end of the track. I thought the backing vocal section was very effective and held strong influences of 1960’s groups, such as The Beach Boys. At this point, my attention returns to the arrangements on each song. Whilst the arrangements are certainly very effective on the album, it’s worth noting that many of the tracks are approximately four minutes long and feature extended instrumental sections. Whilst this is effective and enjoyable on the album itself, the band may want to consider making a series of radio edits for potential singles in order to better attract potential fans.
‘Summer Wind’ has a particularly strong piano part. Barrett switches between staccato blues licks and sustained major chords, which provide a wonderful contrast between the verse and the chorus. My attention turns to the album’s production, which is very good. The band have avoided the common production technique of extensive compression, which in turn gives the album a very serene and live feel. The quality of the recordings themselves are excellent and it’s clear the band have taken adequate time to source appropriate tones and takes at the source. The mixing and mastering is also very good; all levels, frequencies and effects are well balanced and there’s a consistent feel to the production on each track, resulting in a coherent and consistent album.
‘Trap Cove Lullaby’ brilliantly recapitulates each of the band’s signature traits, from the story-like vocal delivery to a great set of backing vocals in the chorus. The track serves as a fantastic conclusion to an album from a very talented and self-assured band who are set to move from strength to strength in the coming years. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Silver Wolf Band decide to venture next and am confident they’ll only set a new standard for themselves on their next release. Highly recommended for fans of folk, acoustic or alternative rock.