While it looks like April’s already starting to bring showers, at least it’s also going to bring with it the first full-length release from Wild Rivers, the expanded Devan & Khalid. The duo have migrated from their meeting place in Kingston to Toronto and picked up Ben Labenski on drums and Andrew Oliver on bass and guitar along the way.
It’s all paid off for the folk duo-turned-quartet, who just finished a tour of eastern Canada ahead of their album launch party in Toronto. Founding members Devan Glover and Khalid Yassein’s rich, mournful vocals find themselves evenly matched by equally layered instrumentation.
It’s a welcome balance—Glover’s voice belts forth with surprising strength even as Yassein takes the lead on vocals, emerging as the most memorable component of this southern Ontario folk sample. While she cuts in early on opening track “Wandering Child,” Glover’s work on the chorus sets the tone for what’s to come as the pair dance back and forth.
There’s more of a country air to “Blue June,” as the strings get a bit more of a slap to them and Yassein’s rural childhood provides its own “romantic metaphors.” His more docile vocals on “Already Gone” compellingly transition from longing to moving on as Glover’s meaty interjections give punch to a resolved chorus. “Oh, ain’t it just a shame/ending about the same/way that we started out,” he coolly delivers before laying into some classic imagery of boarding a train out of town—and adding a welcome spark before the devastation of “Mayday.”
“I’d tell you how I feel but I don’t want to speak to soon,” Glover croons midway through the album, a tentative tell of the hesitation and hapless timing that emerges on each of the tracks. Wild Rivers might not be too far off with their new name as they evoke that seemingly uncontrollable charge that comes with never being too sure about where you’re supposed to end up.
In essence, their titular debut is full of these transitions—drawing, no doubt, from the ones that brought Glover and Yassein to Kingston where they met, and the next ones that took them to Toronto and even more changes to their line-up. It’s people left behind, the mystery of what’s to come, and the endless analysis of a time in flux. And for all this, it’s the line “You’re not lost,” that resonates on the penultimate “Undercover.”
Top Tracks: “Wandering Child”; “Undercover”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)