The Crossing – The White Mansions

Belfast cowboys, The White Mansions serve up a debut of love, loss and murder ballads with their release 'The Crossing'. It's fine Americana heartbreak.

The debut album by The White Mansions ‘The Crossing’ recently landed on the doorstep of Folk and Tumble and we’re mighty glad it did. From the outset this is a classic record full of murder, drinking, longing and prayer and over at Folk and Tumble we have a lot of time for that kind of thing.

Opening with ‘Broken Heart, Broken Hand’, which isn’t another ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ (despite initial impressions), but a classic murder ballad filled with anguish, regret and late realisation. This quickly sets the tone of the record.

Lead singer Paul Reid’s voice is dark, deep and almost rockabilly in places. Backed by the other six members of the band he takes us on a journey straight into the big country where dark juniper trees adorn the landscape and dark waters drift, where Jose Wales stubs out cigars and the Cartwright family live. ‘Great Western Skies’ is another stand out track. Full of Mexican yearning and strong harmonies it’s up tempo melody hides another tale of loss and murder within its Latino rhythms. Making us long to watch the Wild Bunch again.

‘The Union Man’ is straight out of Steinbeck territory. This tale of the underdog, principles and respect born out of poverty is pure dust bowl and an absolute classic. Guitars, harmonica, fiddle banjo and double bass all join together in unison to create a unique yet familiar sound on this record. The production is excellent and yet the recording has all the warmth of an old analogue recording and it screams out to be played out over an old wooden valve transistor radio. There’s a Wild West feel to this record that goes beyond Black Mountain and makes us long for the movies where the heroes are free but flawed and don’t always do the right thing, yet stick strongly to their code.

Belfast certainly has its fair share of cowboys, but this new posse have just raised the stakes at the table and played their ace card with this release. The album will be launched in the Black Box on the 27th of September. We’ll be there and we certainly recommend our readers go too.