Press and Reviews
“A Wonderful Band” “How Gorgeous is that?” – Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
“Blisteringly good roots music”. – AmericanaUK
“What a great record, So refreshing” – Lee Williams, CMR Nashville
“It’s one of the best Americana albums I’ve heard all year.” – Charles DeLint (musician and author of over 75 published books).
“Like the mountains and rivers, their sounds reflect the soul of the region”. – The Piedmont Virginian
“That’s done me the world of good – this is great”. – Frank Hennessy, BBC Radio Wales
“Receiving rave reviews here”. – Iain Anderson, BBC Radio Scotland.
“Stunning” – Roots Magazine
“A thrilling bluegrass romp that musicians of any musical extraction would be envious of”. – Blues Bunny
“This is infectious dancing music and begs to be heard”. – Paul Kerr, Round up Reviews
“This band stands out because there is a freshness about their playing that makes the music sound new and vibrant. “Furnace Mountain is more than qualified to be mentioned in the same breath as the Be-Good Tanyas, and in some areas, is significantly better. “The music has more drive and attack and could never be accused of being twee, something of which the Tanyas have sometimes been guilty.”. – Maverick magazine (UK).
‘The American roots music motherlode just keeps producing treasure, none more winsome and exciting than this quartet who take their name from one of Virginia’s most prominent peaks and their repertoire largely from the old-time, bluegrass and folk ballad traditions. Combining unadorned, honest singing with fiddle tunes that evoke both keening bagpipes and lonesome train whistles, interlaced with brilliantly audacious mandolin breaks, Furnace Mountain sound like a marriage between Be-Good Tanyas and the best bits of Nickel Creek – except with true Appalachian soil caked onto their boots’ – Rob Adams
PRESS RELEASE – “Fields of Fescue”
It is a long time since we heard an album that was so instantly enjoyable and grew better and better with each subsequent play. How many times these days do you get your hands on something so refreshingly great that you just want it to keep playing all day long? …And all week too. We’d go as far as to say that this is the best new release we’ve heard this year – and maybe for a while longer. Another band who have been working quietly away at developing their own distinctive take on rootsy Americana that is so sophisticated in places it’s as good as anything we have ever heard. These are folks who don’t mind getting their hands dirty either, so there’s a glorious Berryville, Virginia, earthiness to much of the fare.
In vocalists Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison, they have two gems who sparkle to give the songs a heart-lifting elevation onto a level rarely reached. They are diamonds but faceted in the old-fashioned rose-cut – not bright-cut way. These girls were meant to be paired up for the task, made to sound so natural and unforced. Curl handles the double bass so sympathetically she should be held up as a bench mark example of the craft to everyone who fancies themselves as the band’s musical backbone. Morrison plays guitar and bouzouki tenderly, to doubly underline the fact that she knows just what is required to keep things nailed to perfection.
Then there’s David Van Deventer on fiddle, coorying in so closely to the others and also playing truly majestic music, at times funky and as unbelievably adventurous and clever as you ever heard. He’s studied the instrument for twenty years and clearly understands all of its subtleties and textural possibilities. He can also jazz it up without heading for never-never land – in the same way that other greats (Casey Driessen, for instance) do.
And as if that ain’t enough, they have Danny Knicely handling mandolin chops and note-perfect runs the likes of which you’ll have to search far and wide to encounter – no kidding. The guy’s amazing!
So what about the material? Well, it’s rustic fare, the songs sitting atop fabulously easy-on-the-ear arrangements and the vocals, soft, almost hushed in places, bring Be Good Tanyas (when they were at their prime) to mind, or maybe The Unthanks.The writing is so damned good it almost demands expletives to get the point across. We cannot remember a more thoroughly satisfying selection of songs and tunes.
This is a CD that will be loved and cherished by people who admire Tim O’Brien, The Waybacks, great old-time (Foghorn Stringband for instance), Natalie Merchant, Kate and Anna McGarrigle. It is honestly that broad and interesting in its appeal. The pickin’ is superlative and arrangements hugely satisfying. Fields of Fescue is destined to go down in history as a classic. Many have tried and failed; Furnace Mountain have pulled it off in spectacular style. Spread the news: It’s worth buying this album for the track “Ooh Belle” alone and that sits just very slightly above the others which will bring us comfort and joy until the end of time.
Virginia roots act Furnace Mountain have made their name at folk and bluegrass festivals across the globe but may not yet have played your home town. If you find yourself in this position, hunt down a copy of their latest album, “Fields of Fescue”, post-haste. Frenzied bluegrass meets haunting Celtic melodies on an album that really struggles to merit criticism.
While particularly adept at rearranging traditional folk reels and jigs, there’s no doubt that the band are more than capable of composing original material, with “Fields of Fescue” standing as a fine introduction to their sound.
It is not until “Winter’s Night” that we first hear a woman sing. From there on in, Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison are at hand with beautiful vocal harmonies, heart worn, genuine, seeming almost effortlessly sweet. The beauty of the delivery on “Bad Girl” is not to be understated while the boundaries of musical intention are completely shattered on “Turbo Dog”, a thrilling bluegrass romp that musicians of any musical extraction would be envious of.
Undoubtedly the most poignant track on the album, “Ooh Belle” relaxes the need for instrumental diligence, instead allowing Curl and Morrison to assume the reins with some delightful shared vocals. Appropriately, the album ends on a high with a dazzling rendition of old-time favourite “Sugar in the Gourd”.
Indeed, you’ll struggle to find such sweet fiddle playing as is delivered by David Van Deventer on this album, while Danny Knicely draws a wonderfully cultured sound from his mandolin. Collectively, Furnace Mountain have created a truly thrilling album in “Fields of Fescue” – an album that gets better with each listen. Unearth this gem. Available from CD Baby.- Review by: Peter McGee
“Blisteringly good roots music”
Virginia based Furnace Mountain describe their style as ‘Ethno-Appalachian Roots Music’. The band typically performs arrangements of traditional songs with a few original compositions thrown in for good measure. While this isn’t usually a recipe for widespread success or acclaim, ‘Fields of Fescue’ is a bold and energetic album featuring some stunning performances and catchy melodies that deserves to be heard by anyone with even a passing interest in traditional, roots or folk music.
‘Fields of Fescue’ is the closest you’ll get to pop Roots music. The songs are all tightly performed, kept under four minutes and generally at upbeat, foot-stomping tempos, though slower moments such as ‘Graveyard / John Brown’s Dream’ provide a nice balance. The instrumental tracks, especially the eponymous ‘Fields of Fescue’ really demonstrate the talent of the musicians involved. David Van Deventer’s fiddle playing is practically flawless throughout and Danny Knicely’s mandolin work has to be heard to be believed – some of the runs on ‘Turbo Dog’ would make Yngwie Malmsteen sweat. There are lots of talented roots acts out there, however, and what makes Furnace Mountain stand out are the twin vocals of Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison. Curl’s vocals are very reminiscent of Joanna Newsom, whose fan-base would be well advised to listen to Furnace Mountain. Generally the wandering fractured nasal style provides an intriguing counterpoint to Curl’s steady double bass work, but like Newsom, there are moments when it all sounds a little too affected, especially at the beginning of ‘Ooh Belle’. Morrison’s vocals are a softer, huskier complement and when the two work together, as on ‘Bad Girl’ it is a genuine aural treat.
A lot of bands are cashing in on the saleability of folk music these days. Furnace Mountain are a welcome reminder of how contemporary musicians can work in harmony with traditional music, thriving on its strengths and keeping it alive for a new generation.
Date review added: Sunday, December 13, 2009
Reviewer: David Harry
C.D. Baby “Shack Album” review Category: Music Featuring the salty sweet voice of Aimee Curl, whose distinct vocal alchemy in ThaMuseMeant has hurled her name into various pockets of folk, bluegrass and roots music, Furnace Mountain is driven by David VanDeventer on the fiddle and vocals with Morgan Morrison on the vocals and bouzouki. Together, they beget an earthy and playful yet passionate hybrid of bluegrass, folk and the slightest touch of rural country songwriting. From a Dylan cover to originals, this disc lilts with an exquisitely-human spirit of poignancy and nostalgia, joy and levity. Whether these ten tracks evoke smiles or heart pangs, there is a pronounced atmosphere of heartfelt outpouring, of songwriting so sincere and musicianship so born from the marrow of their bones that there is a special magic in the silence between the notes, pushing outwards and expanding itself in every phrase. In other words, this is an album that you feel more than you hear. Any follower of bluegrass, newgrass,folkgrass or singer/songwriter forms should not miss Shack Album.
Review of “Fly the River” CD Category: Music Furnace Mountain Good Sound Magazine: review by, Shannon Holiday Furnace Mountain: Fly the River Shepherds Ford 200609Format: CD Virginia trio Furnace Mountain has released yet another A album. If you haven’t yet heard this Appalachian string band, consider this your cue — give one listen to this or any of their prior discs and hear music that sings to the soul. Drawing inspiration from Celtic, folk, and old-timey roots, the group is sure to enamor all who encounter them, and the unmatched vocal pairing of bassist Aimee Curl and bouzouki player Morgan Morrison is nothing short of spine-tingling. Trading leads and weaving harmonies, the two women captivate the ear in ways that are enchanting, mesmerizing, and downright divine. “Fiddlin’Dave” VanDeventer, as he is known, infuses the band with lively spirit, expertly guiding such purely instrumental tunes as “Duck River” and “Chinquapin Hunting.” The trio is often enhanced by the addition of a bodhran (a drum of Irish origin) and the occasional inclusion of mandolin and washtub. Nearly all of the songs are traditional, but each one, from the very obscure to the somewhat familiar, has been reworked and re-envisioned as something fresh and original. If you like live music, check out Furnace Mountain each September in Berryville, Virginia, when they host the legendary Watermelon Park Festival. For more information about the band, this album, and Watermelon Park, visitwww.furnacemountain.com….Shannon Holiday
Reviews & Commentary from the Piedmont Region of North Carolina
Furnace Mountain, hailing from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, were the first act to taken the stage. Although only having three members in the band (Dave VanDeventer on fiddle and banjo, Morgan Morrison on bouzouki and vocals, and Aimee Curl on bass and vocals) they had a quite full sound. VanDeventer’s mastery of the fiddle was evident as he lead the band through songs as diverse as high energy instrumental jigs and Celtic-flavored interpretations of W.B. Yeat’s poetry. During the set Morrison and Curl alternated on vocals, sometimes singing entire songs by themselves, while other times simply alternating verses and joining together to sing the chorus in harmony. Although rather untamed, Curl’s voice was tough and honest, recalling sounds of Lucinda Williams or Chan Marshall’s stunning voices. Morrison’s vocals were a bit more polished. Furnace Mountain’s set was about 75 minutes and featured quite a few instrumental numbers that really showed off all the band member’s instrumental skills.
POSTED BY JIMMY RHINE: “Don’t think twice reviews” This group from Virginia is surprisingly unknown outside small groups of ardent lovers of bluegrass and traditional Appalachian music. It’s surprising because they have the sort of talent and distinct sound that one would expect to garner national attention, if not by big labels then at least by specialized music programs like NPR’s World Cafe and others. Probably the reason this band isn’t more famous is that they don’t pursue it. (They don’t even have a page on Wikipedia, who doesn’t have one of those these days?) They mostly stay in Virginia and surrounding states, playing small bluegrass festivals. I saw them at one such festival and was able to immediately like their music, something which I can’t normally do. I generally have to let things sink in slowly. This is the 2nd of their 3 albums and is my favorite. Just listen to the track “Love is Pleasing” to sample the kind of spooky ,brilliant vocal harmonies this group creates. The instrumentation consists primarily of fiddle,acoustic bass and guitar. On the instrumental songs, the sound is scratchy and raucous. And on the ballads, it blend swell with the vocals and provides drifting interludes and trills. This is a great summertime album for enjoying sunny weekend days.” POSTED BY DUSTY WILMES
Charles DeLint (musician, and author of over 75 published books) “And speaking of harmonies, the two female vocalists from The Furnace Mountain Band are sublime on Fly the River(Shepherd’s Ford), while their fiddler has a gorgeous tone.”
Review: Furnace Mountain, The Maze.
By Peter Palmer
Furnace Mountain is from Virginia (a state which has more musicians per square mile than any other, I do believe), but I found them in New Mexico, of all places. Aimee Curl, bassist and one of two FM voices, spent a bit of time in New Mexico it seems and while maintaining her interest in Furnace Mountain, joined a few other musicians in a band already established known as ThaMusement. ThaMusement were part of a growing circle of musicians and artists under the umbrella of Frogville Records, a collective which released not only albums by ThaMusement but that band’s head muse Nathan Moore and an early Furnace Mountain album, as well. Want a thrill? Check out ThaMusement’s 2006 album Never Settle For Less—an under the radar classic of outstanding music too good to be categorized Americana.
Well, Curl eventually headed back home to help keep the Furnace (Mountain) going and I for one am glad she did because she led me to Fields of Fescue, an album which instead of looking to the past brings the past to the present. Not that many bands out there really capture old-timey music and weave it into a fabric perfect for today. Hot Rize, maybe, and a few others, but they are few and far between. Sure, there are tons of musicians playing old-timey music, but they make you hear old-timey music. Furnace Mountain (and Hot Rize, etc.) make you hear just music because what they play is so good it defies categorization. I know, I say that about a lot of artists and bands, but there are a lot of great artists and bands out there. And Furnace Mountain is surely among them.
It doesn’t take you long to hear it, either. The title track,Fields of Fescue, kicks things off and I mean kicks. A David Van Deventer original, its base is jig and reel and there is some serious jigging and reeling going on. A light-hearted and bouncy tune, it allows delicate interplay between Danny Knicely’s mandolin and Van Deventer’s fiddle until it hits the chorus, at which point everything turns just short of bagpipe in sound and intensity. You want old-timey? They follow that up with the jazzy mountain-bred Rattlesnake/Black Mountain Rag with is hoedown magic (even people who don’t like hoedowns are going to love the intricacies here, and that mandolin is killer!). They next take on a folk/backwoods tome titled Winter’s Night and the first time I heard it, I thought they could have re-recorded the vocals but now think not. As rough-hewn as the vocals are (ably provided by Curl and Morgan Morrison), they give this song an authenticity you have to hear to believe. A little reel (I think it’s a reel),Pretty Little Widowis perfect for some of that folk dancing you hear about people doing now and again, maybe the mountain version of Riverdance” and again that fiddle and mandolin interplay makes the song.Graveyard/John Brown’s Dream is another semi-hoedown tune and features the duel fiddle of Knicely and Van Deventer, who by now have jumped to the top of my musicians-to-watch list. Add the feet (that’s right, I said “feet”) of Megan Downes and the banjo of Jason Romero and you have a damn near perfect track. My dad would have loved this.
The music gets a bit darker with Bad Girl, one of those old folk songs they dredged up from somewhere and it makes me wonder how many more gems are hidden beneath the dust of the past. There is something sinister in both the story and the music, as well as a sense of tragedy. And again, perfect/imperfect voices. Damn, I really love those ladies’ voices! They grow on you, you know?Turbo Dog is a dog race of instruments and if you’ve never heard the influence of jazz on what we used to call “newgrass,” here’s your chance. It is fiddle and mandolin smoke.Factory Girl is another song of the barn dance variety and normally when I hear songs like this, I think them pleasant enough, but like I said, these guys have a way with songs and I find myself liking this as much as any other on the album. I like the song, but I love the way these guys do it. Brad Barr wrote Ooh Belle, the one song outside of the traditional and Furnace Mountain realm, and when you hear it, you know why they chose it. It is a ballad of sorts, full of simple twists in chord and harmony, which sets you back in your chair. It is one of those slower tunes that makes your heart beat faster (assuming you have a heart). Watermelon Seed is another Van Deventer original (he wrote the aforementioned Fields of Fescue) and makes me wish he would write more—or that he would do an album of nothing but originals. While it is a less frantic instrumental than Fescue, it is still upbeat and a great vehicle for Van Deventer’s fiddle and Knicely’s mandolin. Those guys have a real connection. I’ve heard Bowling Green before and have never thought one way or another about it, but this falls under the category of, once again, loving how these guys play it. Somehow, Furnace Mountain has this ability to make me forget genre when they play and it is most obvious when they play the obvious. You’re right back at the Opry with Sugar In the Gourd, an old-timey, footstomping tune (and, yes, there goes ol’ Megan stomping away) and we’re done. Which means you don’t have to read my rantings anymore. As for myself, I think I’m going to do the dishes and play this from the beginning again. This is great dishwashing music. Great.
A few people (mostly relatives) have asked me in the past if I love everything musical because I hardly ever write anything negative. Well, I don’t love everything and I seldom write negatively because I choose the music I write about. That’s right. I choose what I write about which means that I like what I choose or something to that effect. Choosing Furnace Mountain was a no-brainer. ThaMusement knocked me out a few years ago and while I’d not heard Furnace Mountain before Fields of Fescue, I’d heard Aimee Curl and I knew the music was good. Check out Furnace Mountain, then head to Frogville and check out ThaMusement. It may be worth the trip. It certainly was for me.
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.