Lowlands are an Italian roots band that have established themselves as a touring act in mainland Europe. Gypsy Child is set for UK release in May and follows on from 2008’s critically acclaimed The Last Call. An extremely well-produced album, it ranges from stripped folk to electric roots rock, but always does so with a slick audio sheen – credit to Chris Chacavas who mixed it.
The album features guest appearances from a handful of international notables that lend a sense of intrigue to proceedings; there is a very varied palette of sounds and styles on display.
The title track kicks off proceedings nicely in a pleasing cross between ragged Tex-Mex flamenco and The Waterboys. “Between shades and Light” is Pogues-esque, joyous and underpinned by accordion, while “Gotta Be (something out there)” is a frantic Friday night song that throws caution to the wind and flies by at a wild clip. It’s enjoyable stuff and the interplay between Chavacas’ Hammond and the sweeping fiddle of Chiara Giacobbe is, at times, glorious.
However, it is on the slower, stripped-down numbers where Lowlands’ true colours really shine. There are moments on the more up-tempo material where rhymes turn clumsy and guitars echo of the eighties; the acoustic songs have far more substance. They breathe easier and, in places, have a real cinematic scope about them.
“Cheap Little Paintings” is a prime example of this; it could slide effortlessly onto the soundtrack of a cool black and white movie. The listener is instantly whisked to the backstreets of a European metropolis in summer time and the unfolding narrative is hypnotic. The storytelling skills of Lowlands are a genuine strength and are well showcased in “He left”, a proper troubadour number. Similarly, the harmony-driven “Blow Blue Wind Blow” makes for a beautiful album closer containing (as do the other more acoustic-led tracks) a fragility and delicacy that leaves a profound impression.
While this is an eminently listenable album it feels like a harbinger of even finer things to come in the future. The material is consistently good and the standout tracks are, sometimes, great. Perhaps in the future the acoustic tracks might out-jostle their electric cousins for prominence. In the meantime, enjoy the sound of a very promising outfit finding its way.