A review by Justine Dench

After six years of song writing, performing as solo acts, and gigging as various other bands, The Dunwells have finally had their big break, landing themselves a record deal with American label Playing in Traffic. This emerging country rock outfit consist of five lads from Leeds who, through connections of family and long-standing friendships, have come together to bring something new to the current Dance, Pop, and Indie driven climate. With their predominantly 70s rock influences smashing with beautifully crafted acoustic harmonies and charming lyrical content, The Dunwells have managed to deliver an album that echoes a variety of musical genres.

Having spent most of their time as a band performing at cosy backstreet venues, The Dunwells got to experience what life would be like on the big stage and were selected to headline at HMV’s Next Big Thing earlier this month at the Ritz in Manchester. With experience and strong relationships on their side, Joe Dunwell (Guitar, Vocals), Dave Dunwell (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard, Banjo), Jonny Lamb (Drums, Vocals), Dave Hanson (Guitar) and Rob Clayton (Bass) delivered their well written lyrics through tight and warming performances, showcasing the majority of their debut album “Blind Sighted Faith”.

The album opens with the debut single “I Could Be King”. The beautifully simple yet provoking lyrics are carried by Joe Dunwell’s uniquely passionate lead vocals to create a catchy folk ridden tune. With the added use of banjo, the track is an uplifting opening track to the album with all the makings of a song that will get stuck in your head for days, whether you like it or not!

Joe’s lead vocals carry you into the following track, the album titled “Blind Sighted Faith”, a perfect showcase for the group’s excellent ability to vocally harmonise. It opens with a cute acoustic riff that could get you thinking you might have put Six Pence None the Richer on by mistake, but this is soon joined but an almighty electric guitar riff that throws you into classic rock. The lads then kick straight into the chorus giving the song immediate energy, only slowing down enough for you to experience some more of those wonderfully understated lyrics during the verses.

Third on the album is the stand out track “Hand That Feeds” which is lead by Dave Dunwell’s coarse rock driven voice. The rhythmic lyrics, grumbling vocals, and heavy drumming within the verses are complimented by the melodic and passionate choruses, which harbour an enticing vocal explosion. If there was ever a song to entice you to see these guys live, then this could be it as the electricity simply seeps from the stage when they perform. Once again the lyrics are faultless, with enough detail to keep you intrigued without giving away the songwriters intention, leaving the song open to personal interpretation.

Just when you thought this band might be a one trick pony, the album slows down with the beautifully crafted ballad “Only Me” led by drummer Jonny Lamb’s pure and emotive vocals. The lyrics are touching and relatable and the song is supported by simple acoustic and tinkering keyboard, all of which lead up to an unexaggerated climax harbouring a soft 70s rock electric rift and gentle percussion.

Dave Dunwell steps back up to the lead for the next track, their previous self-funded release “Elizabeth”, yet another track that holds an essence of classic American rock. This is then perfectly balanced with the following country stomper “Follow the Road”. The opening folky acoustic is completely overthrown by crashing drums, guitars and delectably passionate lead vocals from Joe. Having seen this track performed live, the album recording almost doesn’t do it justice; however the tantalizing instrumentals and harmonies will certainly still tempt you to turn it up a notch or two on your stereo.

The remaining tracks on the album only keep you wanting more from this contemporary yet classic sounding 5-piece. “In The Moment” once again features flawless lead vocals from Jonny and that familiar bluesy 70s guitar riff that sounds as if it has just been plucked from an Eagles set. The following tracks retain that downtime vibe, maximising the opportunity for the skilled song writing to flourish. This is particularly notable in “I Want To Be”, a minimalistic acoustic number lead by Joe that will have you stopping in your tracks to be enveloped in the soft electric ambience. “Oh Lord” completes the album and, with use of highly relatable heartbroken lyrical content, leaves you in a state of contemplation.

Through the use of multi-genre instruments, lead vocals shifts, and a finely tuned balance of varying tempos, The Dunwells have managed to deliver an album that could contend with any current rock or folk influenced record. If you are a fan of past, but always present, soft rock bands such as Crosby, Stills and Nash or enjoy the likes of contemporary folk groups such as Mumford and Sons, then you must give these guys a listen, you will not be disappointed.

If you missed our recent interview with The Dunwells, you can catch up with that by clicking here.

The Dunwells’ debut album Blind Sighted Faith is due for release on Monday, March 5th 2012, and is now available for pre-order. 

Watch the video for “I Could Be A King” by The Dunwells below:

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