Back in 2015 I was fortunate enough to attend The Big Nui festival, and one of the bands I saw that day impressed me tremendously was Albi & The Wolves, who were a quartet who had formed just the year before. Running the sound for that festival, as well as being one of the organisers, was TeMatera Smith who also owns Red Room Studios, AAA Records, and is now a sought-after producer for the likes of multi award winning and #1 artist Troy Kingi. I have been fortunate enough to have seen the band many times since then, now operating as a trio of Chris Dent (vocals, guitar), Pascal Roggen (violin, vocals) and Micheal Young (double bass). Along the way they have released a few albums, with their debut ‘One Eye Open’ winning them Best Folk Artist at the Aotearoa Music Awards in 2018. Now, in 2023, they have again joined forces with TeMetara to create an album which will surely find them gain even more listeners.

If you live in New Zealand then there is absolutely no excuse for not seeing them play live, as Albi & The Wolves have rightly gained a reputation for one of the hardest working bands around, playing not only venues but tiny villages as they trek the length and breadth of the country spreading the word of their wonderful version of folk. They have the tightness, togetherness and sheer camaraderie that only comes from spending countless weeks on the road which is combined with the mutual respect they have of each other. Micheal is the understated person at the back, holding it together while Chris sings the songs and Pascal steals the show. Not only is he possibly the happiest person ever to grace a stage (with the biggest smile), but he is highly regarded as one of, if not the, finest fiddle players in the land. Don’t just take my word for it, if you check out Cathedral’s awesome ‘The Garden of Unearthly Delights’, you will see him credited there as well.

TeMatera has taken the guys, given them a safe space to play and experiment, and has then assisted them in widening and broadening their approach while never losing what makes the band tick, the essence. At the heart of it all there are still three guys playing, and I recognise quite a few of the numbers, but on some we have organ, and/or horns, drums, soulful backing vocals, in fact whatever is needed to lift them to the next level. What makes this work so well is that there has been no desire to change what Chris, Pascal and Micheal are, but rather there has been an allowance to think outside the box. We get classical English folk, songs like “All I Am” which could have come from The Pogues, others which are Americana all the way with some lovely banjo. This is a wonderfully diverse release, as one is never sure what style will come next, except that the acoustic guitar, violin, double bass and vocals will be the beating heart.

With their third album, Albi & The Wolves have taken some huge strides, as this is a superb release in every way which deserves to be recognised far outside their home country.

Rating: 8/10