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Press Play: River Whyless

todayNovember 29, 2019


From the Carolina mountains come experimental folk ensemble River Whyless. Composed of Ryan O’Keefe (guitars, vocals), Halli Anderson (violin, vocals), Alex McWalters (drums, percussion) and Daniel Shearin (bass, vocals, harmonium, cello, banjo), the band is known for their symphonic sound. River Whyless’ debut album A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door has an intricate interplay of vocals and strings that bursts with an appreciation for the band’s Appalachian roots. Halli Anderson’s classical violin training shines through on each track with quality precision. Standout track “Stones” is an epic seven-minute opus that opens with layers of harmonic “oohs” and “aahs”, trading off with O’Keefe’s vocals sung in soft yet urgent desperation. Unruly cymbals join a brisker rhythm, creating a slow shuffle for a moody section of swampy blues, then cycling back through the folky combination it began with.

We All The Light, River Whyless’ masterful second album, released in August of 2016. We All The Light blooms with artistic composition and imaginative arrangements that take influence from around the globe. Each song on the record is musically diverse. The worldly first two tracks “Baby Brother” and “Falling Son” contain cowbell, drums, fiddle, shakers, and sitar-toned electric guitar. Hip-swaying “Life Crisis” appears in the middle of the album. The song is earthy and rhythmic with persistent heartbeat percussion, rich harmonies, and melodic violin. With all of the careful detail implemented into River Whyless’ sophomore effort, every listen of We All The Light provides something new to find.

For their third album Kindness, a Rebel in 2018 River Whyless took a more cohesive and lyrically thematic approach to their songwriting. The album promotes the theory that kindness is the ideal which one must strive to have rather than violence, anger, tribalism and fear in order to brave the challenging times in which we live. This theme is accompanied by a more aggressive and innovative sonic palette. The track “The Feeling of Freedom” has soaring violin and guiro, offering up another medley of uplifting beats and rhythms. Wherever listeners end up in the River Whyless discography, it is destined to be an introspective and inspiring experience.

Written by: Maria