For the life of me, I can’t place specifically what the first song on The Hand in the Ocean‘s new EP reminds me of. The moment I started listening to “Road To I Am,” it felt like something familiar, in a very satisfying way. And it probably goes without saying that there is a banjo (because we all know how satisfied those things make me).
We Fished All Night and Caught the Day is a brief and impressive introduction from this Midwest trio. Lively yet subdued, the four-song EP pulls roots straight from the soil of Appalachian tradition and strings them onto their instruments. Best of all is the way their parts complement one another, banjo ceremoniously marries with acoustic guitar on every tune, while vocalist Nate Tapling’s voice comes tuned with the same tight-stringed, metallic quality of the banjo itself. Driven with a modest growl, his vocals deepen the authentic sound of the music, to the point where you picture the band playing these songs on the porch of an old waning cabin in the hills, adorned in matted beards and overalls loosely hanging over their union suits. But I guess plaid shirts in a basement works, too.
A theme of death recurs all across the EP, but it’s more about the death of love than anything. “If anything can be your everything, then would you be my nothing?” This is the central lyric of “Not My Way To Feel.” As on “Green Seas,” the song takes a moment of downtime in the middle for earnest reflection and exposing the simple meaning behind its poetic verse. The Hand in the Ocean completes the album’s narrative with “Without Stone Teeth,” which comes across as the sunrise at the end of a long dark night. “We saved it with our new start,” Tapling sings in the chorus, as a lone banjo remains to play the final notes, bookending the EP in fine and clever structure.