You’ll probably be aware of When Rivers Meet. The husband-and-wife duo of Grace and Aaron Bond have been kicking up a storm in the rock world, collecting award after award as their star accelerates towards orbit. They are a true phenomenon in many ways. A summer of festival shows has followed their sold-out spring tour around the UK.
When Rivers Meet – Aces Are High (One Road Records)
Release Date: 8 September 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
But they are at a crossroads musically. Wowing festival crowds and 4-500 capacity venues is one thing, but the duo need to build on We Fly Free and Saving Grace, their first two albums that certainly got them noticed.
Well, the good news is that Aces Are High is likely to propel them much further along that path to wider recognition. A rockier sound than the bluesy Americana of the first two releases, there’s a harder edge to the band here.
Aces Are High opens with Infected, Aaron’s grungy guitar riffs providing the platform for Grace’s instantly recognisable vocals. It possesses a bit more grit and a bit more dirt under the nails and shows that When Rivers Meet can rock with the best.
It’s followed by what is described by Grace as a “really unique song for our repertoire,” Seen It All Before. The third single from the album, it’s got a sludgy, bluesy vibe that allows Grace to excel, her smouldering voice bringing a slightly edgy feel to the track.
Aces Are High continues with several surprises. Fans will be familiar with the first single Play My Game, very much a When Rivers Meet classic and already a fan favourite at live shows. Then there’s the second single, Perfect Stranger, about their relationship and a smouldering, emotionally charged track that soars with excitement as it builds. It’s got a crunchy riff that forms the bedrock of the song, with the percussion enhancing the tempo and vibrancy.
The title track provides a fuzzed-up semi-stoner feel, very much out of kilter with their previous music but still distinctly When Rivers Meet in sound. “As our music is progressing, we’re finding our sound even more,” the duo comment. “When we went in the studio this time, we’ve never been so sure on what we wanted to create—we had a really clear vision and have stuck to it.”
Tracks such as Golden and Trail To Avalon demonstrate the band’s expanding styles, with Aaron taking more vocals in both. The former is almost campfire delight, whilst the latter brings the band’s bluesy roots back into focus. Trail To Avalon has a swagger and focus, with some delightful slide work.
Whilst this is distinctly a When Rivers Meet album, with plenty of instant traits, the band have also mixed things up. It’s an album of contrasts, and if you need any more evidence, then listen to The Secret, followed by By Your Side (which was part of the recent tour), to see and hear two contrasting sides of the same band. (I’ll admit that the romantic element of the latter isn’t my favourite here, as I prefer the rockier edge that they bring).
Reflecting on Aces Are High after three back-to-back plays, I would say that this is exactly the album that this endearing duo needed to release.
A full mix of styles and tempos all demonstrate why When Rivers Meet is so highly valued. Watch them fly, for this is likely to be the album that powers them to the next level.
When River Meet – Aces Are high – is available to pre-order from here.