One of my great passions in music is discovering new bands and new music to listen to. This does take a bit of dedication as it is all too easy to fall into the trap of listening to the same things again and again and again and again… I call it the Pink Floyd loop. Added to this is the truth that, more often than not, it results in disappointment and a huge amount of dross being forced through my ears. But every now and then you uncover something that makes it all worth while. ‘Effigies’, the debut EP from Asheville folk-indie group Fortune & Glory, is exactly that, a real gem.
Fortune & Glory are a four piece consisting of founding members Eric Barker and Jono Kirk (who started in 2008), alongside Jon Blalock and Dan Tyler. That period of close to a decade between formation and first release is evident as each track on ‘Effigies’ oozes quality. There can be a tendency in new bands to showcase the individual talents at the expense of the song, but there is none of that here. Each track is well thought out, intricately arranged, and it seems the egos have been left to the side for the greater good of the music.
The first of the four tracks is the vocal heavy ‘Beautiful Ghost’. The 3/4 timing and waltzy guitar strumming gives the whole piece a dreamy feel, but the real stand out is the vocals and imaginative phrasing that dominates the track. The lyrics are excellent (‘There’s one thing that you should know, that i dance here alone with your beautiful ghost when you go’) although the song does threaten to stagnate a little as it progresses. Fortunately it is saved at the 3 minute mark, when the bridge kicks in with a superb vocal solo that really shows the vocal range.
Next up is my personal favourite ‘The Worst Of Me’, which begins with a quick fingered, almost Jonny Greenwood like, arpeggiated guitar. In fact the whole track does have a slightly Radioheady. feel to it, all be it a little more upbeat. The lyrics and vocals are again excellent, but the real high point is the duelling guitars, one high up the neck and one low, that make up the guitar solo. The rhythm provides a Spanish influence as the two solo guitarists battle it out giving a slightly more suspicious sounding interlude to combine with the more up beat vocal sections. My only complaint is one of personal preference, as I would have liked to hear a bit more of the soloing, but they say leave your audience wanting more, and it certainly does that.
The third track, ‘Sanctuary’, again showcases Fortune & Glory’s excellent musicianship, with a superb arrangement, emotional guitar work, and most notably, superb vocal harmonies. This is probably the most evocative of the four tracks, with thoughtful lyrics (‘A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor, sometimes it takes a storm to rebuild your shelter’), and wonderful overlaying acoustic guitars that are a feature of the EP as a whole. The song builds as the guitars wind there way through two verses, but it is the (electric) guitar solo that stands out, and brings the song to a satisfying finale. The guitar work is a real stand out throughout, but the solo is wonderfully simple and emotional, and dare I say it, almost Gilmouresque, leaving a satisfying feeling of melancholy as the track fades away.
Last up is ‘The Garden (Where I Walk)’, which is the darkest and most mysterious sounding song on the album. If I’m honest this doesn’t quite reach the heights of the previous three tracks, but there is plenty to like none the less. The vocals are shared, with the two styles complimenting each other well, and the lyrics are good. The guitar work is excellent, with the peak of the song again reached with a superb solo, a slow thoughtful opening leading to a frantic ending fits the song well. Personally, I think it would have been nice for the song to end on the solo to give a satisfying finish to the EP, instead of a short vocal reprise, but that is more personal taste than anything.
As with all first releases, the band have time to really put together their best music, and there is no doubting that this is a really high quality first EP from Fortune & Glory. The attention to detail is superb, and they have all the ingredients needed to be a hugely successful band. The vocals and in particular the lyrics, which are so often left wanting in first releases, are superb, and they are all clearly excellent musicians. The next test is to see if they can reproduce it on a regular basis, and if they can do that, then the sky really is the limit.