Nashville, Tennessee is not all about country music. Many onetime West Coast based musicians fled the sunny California climes over the last two decades for the comparatively benign weather of middle Tennessee while a bevy of alternative music acts are part of the local scene supplementing the longstanding country music community traditionally defining the city’s musical identity. The Deer’s Cry is among them. The four piece plays original compositions sparked by their love for traditional music from around the world, bluegrass, Irish traditional music, and jazz. Ren Renfree at Sound Catcher Recording produced their debut album Rise With the Dawn and the album’s title track serves as a leadoff single exhibiting the strengths Renfree brought to the project. Guest musical artist Joseph Carmichael joins songwriter and vocalist Karen Ballew with his guitar, whistle, and flute playing while Heather Carmichael and Cierra Brannies contribute potent vocal harmonies. 

URL: https://www.thedeerscry.com/

It would be easy to hear the song’s lyrics as unequivocally positive, but that’s a slight misreading of Ballew’s writing. “Rise With the Dawn” is not mired in despair, but it is much more a tentative prayer rather than a full on invocation of hope. Uncertainty creeps into the song with each refrain. Ballew’s speaker doesn’t know where life is ultimately leading them, but there’s an irrepressible hope that it’s towards a brighter dawn. She communicates that feeling quite well through her singing. Her voice has many technical strengths and there’s little doubt she can reproduce this lead vocal in a live setting, but she imbues her phrasing with oceans of feeling as well. 

The tasteful musical accompaniment is ideal. The Deer’s Cry and their aforementioned guest contributors alike seamlessly blend their talents into a greater whole, satisfying and unobtrusive. The band invokes the song’s lyricism through its arrangement with little apparent effort. It sounds natural and free flowing from the first. Despite this being a single from their debut effort, it is obvious polished musicians and songwriters are behind The Deer’s Cry as the track never bites off more than it can chew and has a near perfect running time. Renfree’s production frames every aspect of the performance in an effective and lightly atmospheric way without ever adopting a hamfisted approach. 

Their love for traditional music shines through without ever sounding too reverential or neutered. “Rise with the Dawn” is vibrant, layered, and full of humanity in a way modern music seldom is without sounding like some sort of academic exercise. It’s an excellent first taste of The Deer’s Cry capabilities and there’s little question that their album Rise With the Dawn will be a rousing success if the remainder of the release measures up to the same high standards they set with this title track. Their arch traditional approach to composition and performance is almost revolutionary in an era dominated by technology, pop country, and hip-hop. It’s a reminder of music’s unfettered power when you strip away all the gloss and tinsel away to reveal the beating heart often buried deep within a song.

Nicole Killian

The music of THE DEER’S CRY has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Records. Learn more – https://musikandfilm.com

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