Review: The Hello Darlins – The Alders & The Ashes


The Hello Darlins - The Alders & The Ashes

The Hello Darlins – The Alders & The Ashes
Format: 2CD – 2Vinyl LP – Digital / Label: Continental Record Services
Release: 2024

Text: Bert van Kessel

With this phenomenal double album one of today’s most interesting groups has added a magnum opus to their blossoming catalogue. The Canadian collective of immensely talented, seasoned (session-) musicians, who like to perform in various line-ups is lead out by outstanding vocalist and frontwoman extraordinaire Candace Lacina and keyboard wizard Mike Little; they have also written the songs ,ocasionally helped out by guitarist Murray Pulver.

When the band toured Europe in 2022 they brought the house down wherever they performed. Their debut abum from 2021 ‘Go By Feel’ had been receiving rave reviews all over the world. And now here’s ‘The Alders & the Ashes’ named after two trees with great symbolic significance in Celtic mythology. Together they stand for change and growth.

Disc one is named ‘The Alders’ and disc two ‘The Ashes.’ The well-balanced 17 tracks of this exceptionally warm album are characterised by intimacy and pervasiveness.

The opening track of disc 1 displays the vocals of Candace Lacina in their full glory straight away; we are drawn in by her warmth and conviction. Track two, crowd favourite What Is A Broken Heart For is characterised by a catchy guitar riff and wonderful interaction among the instruments with the keyboard setting the tone. Then the first relief singer is brought in; J. C. Edwards whose powerful voice gratefully accepts the vocal challenge which is set by Candace, who returns at her most seductive in another crowd pleaser Lay Down Low.

Intimacy prevails in the intrusive Highway 355. There is a whole lot of soul in Better Days with a more than convincing contribution of guest singer Dave Fenley. Candace steps up centre-stage for the powerful Don’t You Fall. The happy-go-lucky country-rocker Carefree Arizona indeed epitomizes the gaiety of a carefree attitude with Josh Matheny excelling on dobro and an exuberant sing-along from the background vocalists. This happiness continues with the closing tune of CD 1, He Died With His Boots On; Candace lets her hair down in some mighty fine yodeling.

Cd2 brings us some tears and quite a few smiles as well. It opens with a true heartache song; Candace makes the speakers weep when she sings “I  don’t need more reasons to cry”. Russell Broom’s wailing electric guitar adds magnificently to the sadness. It is followed by another tear jerker Best Worst Mistake.

For the lament Lonely Shore the power of Ruby Freeman’s soulful voice is an excellent choice. Enough tears have been shed now and it’s time for the uplifting Mama Knows; Mike Little’s accordion will surely bring a smile to your face. For the rocking Do It Up Right Murray Pulver steps into the limelight for lead vocals and a searing electric guitar. The rocking continues with Devil In The Dark.

This overwhelming double album closes with two versions of funky prize number Stranger In The Mirror. The radio edit is followed by an extended version on which we hear guest vocalist Martin Sexton duetting with himself using distorted vocals; the longer version also features some exquisite soloing by Mike Little on the Hammond and Russell Broom on electric guitar.

Great songs, great vocals and great musicianship: it doesn’t get much better than this.

Vinyl 1, Side A (CD 1 in same order)
01. Forgiving Cain and Loving Abel
02. What Is A Broken Heart For?
03. Sea That Meets The Sky – feat JD Edwards
04. Lay Down Low
05. Highway 355

Vinyl 1 Side B
06. Better Days – feat Dave Fenley
07. Don’t You Fall
08. Carefree Arizona
09. Died With His Boots On

Viny 2 Side A (CD 2 in same order)
01. Reasons To Cry
02. Best Worst Mistake
03. Lonely Shore – feat. Ruby Friedman
04. Mama Knows

Vinyl 2 Side B
05. Do It Up Right
06. Devil In The Dark
07. Stranger In The Mirror feat Martin Sexton – RADIO Edit
08. Stranger In The Mirror – feat Martin Sexton Extended version