Humphrey-McKeown: “Passing Shadows” – folk-rock instrumentation with modern-pop intonations

main photo by Tony Skiroock

Humphrey-McKeown’s new single “Passing Shadows” never lets their audience forget that they play contemporary folk music, but the duo’s brand of folk has a modern flair for rock-flint touches, panels of torchlight arrangements, graceful strings, and a pint of sultry soulful vocals. Their track is where folk meets heartland rock, where Americana and soulful harmonies share a common ground. Comprised of core members Heather Humphrey and Tom McKeown, as well as Jim Livas, Tony Meadors and Gary Jacklin, the collective really make the best with what they have, fusing nostalgic folk-rock instrumentation with modern-pop intonations.

“Passing Shadows” shines light on some rootsy folk harmonies that make the melody jump out at the listener. Their harmonizing inflames the song’s organic rock vibrations made up of layers of acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, fiddle and bass, all thoroughly beaten together by big booming drums.

It’s hard not to think of the best tracks Fleetwood Mac brought to the table in their heyday, when listening to this song. The similarities are uncanny – same visceral but highly polished sound, same sense of catchy melodies built upon expansive chord progressions and luscious harmonies, same dynamic vocals and ever-changing rhythmic schemes.

But that’s where the similarities end – the supreme quality of the structural formulas may be the same, but the substance is pure Humphrey-McKeown.

On “Passing Shadows” the acoustic guitars are tucked behind the melodic strings of the mandolin while Humphrey-McKeown’s vocals resonate with arches and imprints that emboss velvety creases in the melody.

The song is so cleanly polished that it gleams like glass. Not a single tendril is left unfinished, while the melody and lyrics are meant to inspire and move your heart rate: “Dance for the common man when they don’t think they can. Dance as it all comes to an end. Speak for the silent voice when they don’t have a choice. Speak as the one who is a friend.” As the music manipulates our emotions, the lyrics give hope a central place.

It’s difficult not to become wrapped up in the bouncy, infectious rhythm and the song possesses a killer anthemic drum and vocal hook, tailor-made for any extravagant arena performances. On the same note it’s not too much to say that Humphrey-McKeown are one of the most promising figures in contemporary folk-rock music.

They are currently preparing their new album “Tapestry of Shadows” – of which you can be a part by joining them on Pledge Music – which once released, in my opinion, will help them to swiftly make their climb to industry and fan acclaim.

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