Country soul music isn’t necessarily a sound that you would expect from a band coming out of Bristol, but Phantom Limb have nailed the sound completely, creating a distinctive Americana style-vibe that would sound at home in the Southern states of the USA.
One of the immediate talents from this band can be found in lead singer Yolanda Quartey, whose soulful voice is one of the main highlights of this record. Quartey, who has also sung backup vocals for the likes of hip-hop artist Dizzee Rascal, Massive Attack and Pop Idol winner Will Young, has an outstanding vocal range that immediately draws your attention and leaves you utterly amazed.
Four years on from their debut effort, they have taken their sound to another level, sounding more refined yet keeping a slightly old-style country edge that would not sound odd if played in the Deep South. Throwing an organ, banjo and acoustic guitars in the mix, it’s very much a record that’s easy on the ears, further strengthening their reputation as a band synonymous with the alt country genre. Gospel singing comes to mind on the upbeat ‘Missy’ and expertly arranged second track ‘Tumbling Down’, whilst the slow, moodiness of ‘Hollow Eyes’ and the melodic album closer ‘High And Dry’ offer a change of mood, doing sombre just as well as they do cheerful. Some of the tracks even have a slightly rockier edge, which is unsurprising as it was produced by ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, whose influence shines all the way through the record.
But, although ‘The Pines’ is arranged beautifully, it’s all a bit too clean-cut which comes as a disappointment. For a genre that has a very ‘back to basics’ stance, this record is missing a certain rawness that would transform it into something truly excellent. While listening, at times it does sound very ‘pop’ and after a few listens the album does start to grate a little, which is a shame as they have the potential to achieve a great sound that will set them apart from most British bands of this genre.
With a little less fine-tuning to suit an easy-listening audience, Phantom Limb could become a great rock band. The talent is most certainly there, we’re just waiting for their true colours to be shown.
Written by Ashleigh Wight
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989. | Aspiring freelance pizza eater.