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Review: River Whyless, 'We All The Light'

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

River Whyless, <em>We All The Light</em>.
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
River Whyless, We All The Light.

On River Whyless' masterful second album, We All The Light, four ego-less musicians blend their talents on violin, guitars, drums, harmonium, cello, banjo, toy piano and (most importantly) vocal harmonies to make a record steeped in the American acoustic tradition. And, though I first came across the Asheville, N.C., band at a small club in Nashville during AmericanaFest 2015, River Whyless doesn't play country, folk or roots rock. Think Paul Simon; think imaginative arrangements with accents of music from around the world. The lyrics are deep and the hooks are strong. In "Falling Son," River Whyless takes on the issue of hanging on to dreams as we get older:

Seems to come up more often

In the collapse of my 20s

Oh the falling sun

Oh the falling son

A collective featuring Halli Anderson, Ryan O'Keefe, Daniel Shearin and Alex McWalters, River Whyless finds uncommon balance on We All The Light, combining exceptional songwriting talent and unexpected sounds for something truly singular.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.