Album: The Holloway
Label: Long Way Home Music
The difficult second album has been a cliché for almost as long as there have been albums. After a very well received debut with 2021’s Temperature’s Rising, East Sussex duo Milton Hide have approached their sophomore effort by taking a different path. Deciding that it would be hard to top their previous release, Jim and Josie Tipler decided on a more basic style this time round. The Holloway deviates from the bigger band sound of it’s predecessor, and presents itself as a more intimate acoustic experience.
Milton Hide are a duo often influenced by their surroundings. Having taken their name from some woodland near their home, the title of the album relates to a path along which they often walk their dogs. The path has sunk over the years with the footfall of many thousands of people, with the trees growing overhead to form a kind of a tunnel. The artwork was created by Josie, and you get a perfect sense of place from it.
The title track though is not the only location-inspired track on the album. One of the highlights on the release comes early on with an ode to Cuckmere Valley, featuring a twelve string guitar and clarinet that elevates the song throughout. The first single, Widow’s Revenge is a follow up to a murder ballad which appeared on their first EP. That track was Monkyn Pyn, which was named after an area near to where they live, albeit it the etymology of the name is not as interesting as the tale it inspired. In the follow-up though, we get to hear from the victims, and do check out the atmospheric video that has been released to accompany it.
There are plenty of other influences at play too. In Found Drowned / A Perfect Place we have a Brexit metaphor inspired from a painting by Frederick Watts. The Ballad of Gabriel Oak relates the story of the hero from Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, and Anning’s Fossil Depot covers the 18th Century palaeontologist from Lime Regis, only now being recognised for her contribution to science.
Another of the highlights comes just before the instrumental title track at the end of the album. The Happiest Man On Earth is a tribute [to] a book of the same name by Eddi Jaki [Jaku], an Auschwitz survivor and inspiration speaker, who vowed to be the happiest man on Earth as a mark of respect for all those lost in the holocaust. As you can imagine, this is a largely upbeat song with tones of darkness lurking.
This is a very different album from Temperature’s Rising, and anyone expecting a repeat may find themselves disappointed. What we have instead is just as glorious though. This is perhaps a more overtly folky album than the debut, yet it grabs you in a far more subtle way. You can almost sense its sonic tendrils inching out to envelop you, forming a safe space around you not too dissimilar from the titular pathway. The Holloway is another great release from a great duo at the very height of their musical prowess.