Guitarist Joe Ravenhall and singer Chris Brebner formed Ravenhall back in 2015, writing more than 100 songs together before recruiting drummer Damian Hilt and bassist Alan Treanor to fill out their sound. I was a big fan of their The Coming Storm EP from 2021, so I was keen to hear the new album to see what had been happening in the intervening time, and although I had no idea quite what to expect I am sure it was not this! Joe and Chris have gone right back to basics, so this album has the two of them sat on stools at Chris’s bar, with Chris having just a touch of reverb on his vocals and Joe accompanying him on acoustic guitar. That’s it, nothing else, but my view has always been there is nothing purer and more honest than a singer and an acoustic instrument as there is no room to hide, and every flaw can be heard (especially when it is a live recording like this one). But get it right, and it is magical, and one can probably guess where this review is heading.
The duo each play to their strengths, and their long working relationship is evident in that each is totally relaxed, knowing the other will always be there to provide the support they need. Chris has a great voice, which I have likened in the past to Mark Cohn and Steve Earle, and here he is being allowed to fully shine. Joe strums at some points, but for the most part he is picking, adding nuances yet never overplaying, allowing Chris to shine on his own when the time is right but being there when there is a need to add something extra. I must confess I noticed quite a few covers on here, and I am actually not sure if this is a set of covers as although this is a live recording, I don’t recognise any titles from their own releases, but they have certainly put their own stamp on everything. I am sure Peter Cox and Richard Drummie never thought King of Wishful Thinking could be turned into something so poignant and beautiful (as well as being somewhat slower), yet the set closer is simply magnificent in this style. Slowing it down, changing the tempo and attack, is a theme of this release with It Must Have Been Love also benefiting from this revised approach as the guys refuse to play it safe but make all these songs their own. This truly is a wonderful album which I have enjoyed immensely from the first time I heard it, and it just keeps getting better the more I play it.