Arise and Step Forward
Belfast band The Rising are about to release their second album, Moving On. The title is especially well-chosen. Moving On describes not just the band’s development but specifically how they coped with lead guitarist, Chris Logan’s, near fatal accident.
This all happened just as they were finishing the recording towards the end of last year. More recently I had the chance to catch up with Chris and I’m pleased to report he has recovered, if still (quite understandably) a bit shaken. In a chat that covered the album, plans and the broader country music scene, he sounded full of enthusiasm and all credit to him, was able to take some positives from his experience.
First, how are you? “I’m better now but I was sore for a very long time with broken ribs and dislocated shoulder. I was just standing there on the pavement, next thing I was clipped by a bus. You don’t think that sort of thing’s going to happen to you. I still get flashbacks”.
What was the impact of your enforced absence on the new record? “Big. We had everything planned; record the new album, release in March then go out on the road. We were nearly there with a few more songs to record, a couple of changes here and there but generally we were on schedule. Then everything stops. We can’t play so what now?”
What did you do with this available time? “Well, that’s the thing, we were in the unusual situation of being able to evaluate everything we’d done. You get totally absorbed with writing and recording new songs so now we could step back and say, is that song good enough, too long, let’s change that verse/chorus. The usual rush to the finish had gone”.
That sounds like a major overhaul. What did you change the most? “Take ‘Rebound’; we were going to drop it altogether. I had had the piano riff for ages and would play it anytime I came near the instrument. The band just said is that all you can do? We had the structure, melody and lyric before my accident, but they still weren’t strong enough. So we rewrote the whole song and now it’s going to be the album’s first single”.
You did a lot of the engineering yourself. Was that a result of this extra time? “Not really. Production goes with writing. Gong back to ‘Rebound’, we used the technology to move the various parts around. The piano was recorded so we dropped in the drum loop and other pieces then moved everything around again. The studio is a tool. That’s the advantage of stepping back”.
What did the others think of that? Does the reference to “personal struggles” in the liner notes give a clue? “Not everyone liked all that change. The bass player is very linear, everything was done so why go back? We started the record as a five piece and we ended with three. As musicians we had all invested time and money in the band, we could see the rewards but they soon disappear when everything stops. And that’s before all the changes to the songs. I don’t blame the others for leaving. It sounds harsh but in a way I’m glad. We’ve moved on and the three of us left are even closer”.
The Rising have been described as ‘country’. Do you agree to such labelling? “Yes and no. Yes, because I was brought up on the old country greats. My dad was a country singer and I was obsessed with his records by Red Sovine, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard. Chantelle’s mum was a line-dancing teacher so we’re both into old country. I believe the greatest influence comes from the music around you. Just because we are from Ireland doesn’t mean we can’t write country songs. There are so many pubs round here where traditional bands play violins, banjos, washboards. They may be singing about the hills of Donegal but it’s still pure bluegrass and telling stories. No we’re not country if you are a purist who says there’s no place in country for a drum loop. I think there is room for experimentation because it’s back to what’s available to you. Would Johnny Cash have used one if it had been available to him? I think he would”.
There is definitely country but there is also pop and rock. Rightly, the record starts with the title track, ‘Moving On’. Logan’s slide has such an assured sound, opening the door for Chantelle McAteer’s vocals. Behind them lies a very tight rhythm. As Logan said, the production is part of the writing. When the band has put it all together the result exudes a sense of release, at last we’re off again.
‘Forgive and Not Forget’ continues the theme of change. It has a country/pop feel with the overdubs, “You go looking for love/this is what you get/you go looking for love/it’s not over yet“. Theres a lot going on, almost too much. ‘With You’ is a peach. Then production is spot on, giving the song enough breadth to fill a stadium. Again “everything changes” but whatever the lyric this is modern country and who cares where they come from?
McAteer has a lovely voice, particularly when she sings at the softer end as on “‘Back to Me’. Again, there’s a strong country base but the catchy tune and pace could send it into a pop chart.
To fund the album’s costs the band launched a pledge campaign, part of which was the offer to include a song written by one of those pledging. That’s how ’Reasonable’ came about. The band took the song did some reworking and put it on the album. Seeking to address that perennial definition of what constitutes reasonable behaviour the song barrels along with some great keys, definitely one for the next live set.
We shall never know what ‘Rebound’ sounded like before its overhaul but the piano intro is an effective hook into a song about that most perilous aspect of love. Again McAteer gives it the full range of emotion making the song an ideal choice for a first single.
‘Yellow House’ has more than a hint of Eric Church. About a bank robbery, the pace feels like the pursuit of the crooks themselves before the crescendo of the final shoot out. This is a rocker. If I had to be ultra critical there are parts of the record where that tempo veers towards frenetic.
That is why my favourites are those that give full range to Logan’s guitars then interweave with McAteer’s vocals. A good example is ‘Finally Found You’ that soars away at the end. But what these guys do so well is build up a song with both and their production that turn the song into an anthem. ‘Roundabout’ does just that to bring the record to a close, not dissimilar to a live set. Logan summed up Moving On succinctly, “we want to get this out to as many people as we can. We offer an album full of honest songs that are the stories of three people. It has country, pop and rock so there’s something for everyone. You’ll discover something new each time you listen so give it a chance”.
The result is an album that sounds assured, confident that deserves to give The Rising a big push forward. I’d endorse every one of Logan’s words.