VILLAGES – ” Play The Fiddle All Night “

Posted: January 18, 2023 in MUSIC

The concept of the Dark Island is metaphorical: When you’re at the end of your life, taking stock of it, what will you think about? No matter what you land on, good or bad, that island is yours – the dark surely looms, but it also covers all you’ve ever experienced.

For the folk-rock quartet Villages, the concept is also literal: Hailing from Cape Breton Island, on the farthest flung northeastern corner of Nova Scotia – itself already flung far – and jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a lush landscape of great complicated beauty, its rocky coast covered in sea salt and leaning defiantly into harsh winds.

On its new full-length, “Dark Island”, Villages marries metaphor to roots on 11 tracks that offer an experience meant to echo a visit to Cape Breton itself: Otherworldly, euphoric, sobering, celebratory, and reverent. what is perhaps the album’s most Celtic-leaning track, “Play the Fiddle All Night.” All of the album’s themes are handily encompassed in just half of a chorus in this beautiful song: “Play for me the ‘Dark Island’ / till the dew lifts off the clover / play the fiddle all night.” This gorgeously infectious tune finds the band channeling the likes of Richard Thompson while marrying their Celtic roots with more of a contemporary indie folk sound. Layering in orchestral textures and soaring choruses, the song feels like it could fill an arena.

The band – Matt Ellis, Travis Ellis, Jon Pearo, Archie Rankin – tapped the JUNO-winning composer and soundscapist Joshua Van Tassel (David Myles, Great Lake Swimmers, Fortunate Ones) as producer, stepping into Joel Plaskett’s Fang Recording for a whirlwind eight days. Van Tassel directed the band to play the songs fully live off the floor (three takes max) capturing the boisterous energy of Villages’ live performances and making the album a series of present moments strung together.

Nature is, aptly, a dominant theme on “Dark Island”, befitting men who grew up in a place wild and beautiful: fields, waves, trees, rivers, and rocks figure prominently throughout the lyrics, presenting the music as a kind of soundtrack to Island life, putting you in and at home.

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