Steve Maloney and his band, The Wandering Kind, are starting to make a name for themselves even outside their native Newfoundland. And it’s no wonder considering Maloney’s impressive classically trained vocals and an extensive band that includes Adam Hogan and Phil Maloney from Hey Rosetta! along with Paddy Byrne, Robbie Brett, Jen Benson and Amy Joy.
On top of that, the group recorded with additional St. John’s recruits Tom Power, Romesh Thavanathan, Jill Dawe, Terry Campbell, Michael O’Keefe, John Duff, Chris Harnett and Nicole Hand for their self-titled debut album, adding the banjo, cello, trombone and a couple of trumpets and saxes to the mix. The result is a self-described “alternative-folk” mix that tapers into some vintage sounds as the album moves from a strong country-infused debut to a slow-moving waltz at the close.
The banjo accompanies the very first notes of “Exaggerations” as the album bursts into life. A brief interlude reveals some of the powerful vocals to come before launching into the rolling chorus one final time. Meanwhile “Circle Comes Undone” flirts more with the alternative part of the group’s label, reaching into indie and hints of folk for inspiration.
“In Spring” is the first song on the album, but not the last, to tap into a 1950’s slow rock vibe as Maloney’s vocals caress the notes. “Tyrant Games” eases out of this, at least instrumentally, but keeps one foot firmly in the romantic past with Maloney’s singing. “Sentence” and “On the Other Hand” emerge as the strongest folk numbers on the release but as with most of the latter half of the album there’s no escaping Maloney’s training as his voice hops along to the waltz being created.
The release ends on an even quieter note, as the multitude of instruments fade away and Maloney’s vocals stretch out like a thing from the past, reaching through an old player for one finale coda. Overall, the album is filled with this kind of passionate delivery as a crackling, vintage finish holds the variety of sounds together.
Alternative-folk doesn’t quite encompass everything Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind have going on—there is a fusion of genres from folk, to country, to classic and classic rock that’s difficult to pin down. Maloney’s voice is partially responsible as it evades those simplistic labels. The range of instruments, and the comfort moving between them and spreading them out throughout the album, is another genre-defying feat. But that resistance to categorization is one of the band’s greatest strengths as it commands attention with those nuanced surprises.
Top tracks: “Circle Comes Undone”; “On the Other Hand”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)