Three years after their ‘Five Hours North’ album, House Above The Sun make a very welcome return with ‘Time I Got Goin”, a five track EP that explores the full range of their beloved Americana sound. If you’re at all familiar with the band, ‘Time I Got Goin” does exactly what you’d expect, but if anything the new songs feel much warmer and more professional than before. One track, in particular, could be their best song to date.
The EP gets off to a fine start with ‘Trains’, a number that finds House Above The Sun in an uncharacteristically upbeat mood. Blending a little retro rock with plenty of Americana influences, the number rattles along like the titular mode of transport, with a repetitive riff backed by a fine drum part. Within the motoring sound, you’ll find plenty of recognisable hallmarks of the HATS sound: there are occasional crying steel guitars accentuating the country elements; a swirling organ (low in the mix, but an integral part of the arrangement) and a vocal that’s surprisingly hushed considering the busier musical backdrop. Between the hard twang of the lead guitar during the intro, a solid melody throughout, and the kind of chorus that’ll take a few plays to work its magic, there’s plenty here to entertain during those all important repeat listens. Soon enough, it becomes like something you’ve always known – or at least the most natural successor to 2017’s ‘Five Hours North’.
Switching the mood for something slower, the brilliant ‘Small Town’ presents the band’s husband and wife anchor Jim and Ariel Moreton in far more of a reflective mood, as they harmonise on a tune that sounds a lot like something from Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ album from 1992. Jim’s acoustic playing is solid throughout – sounding even better thanks to a mournful accompanying steel guitar – but his vocal provides a real highlight as he sounds so much stronger than in the past. There’s a real feeling of a band that are now totally comfortable with sharing their art and between the timeless harmonies and a fine country rock vibe lending genuinely homely quality, House Above The Sun deliver a career best.
A little gentler, the title track allows for plenty of acoustic picking, blending the band’s usual country and folk sounds with a faint hint of bluegrass. As before, no matter the style, the vocals carry so much of the weight; at least until a vaguely psychedelic mellotron drone arrives. This is something that works quite well for HATS in that it conjures memories of the country influenced bands on the fringes of the late 60s psych scene – specifically the more experimental side of Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds circa ‘Untitled’ – and in doing so, helps give the music an even older heart. Opting for something that sounds more like something folk-rock influenced within the 90s alternative scene, ‘The Better Life of Little Tony Starfish’ has moments that never sound a million miles away from Foo Fighters’ quieter moments meeting the core sound of classic Teenage Fanclub. In some ways, that makes it also close to ‘Hotel Yankee Foxtrot’ era Wilco, but as always, House Above The Sun bring plenty of their own charm. Of particular note is Jim’s lead vocal, as it takes on a completely different mood as he is subjected to a few playful filters. Although this track is much less concerned with country tinged harmonies, a steel guitar and very retro feel are very much in keeping with the band’s usual fare, so this isn’t so much a massive departure but more of an interesting sidestep.
Rounding out the EP is a live recording of ‘Footsteps’, capturing the band at The Lightship. An intimate recording, this revisitation of a stand-out number from their self-titled 2015 release finds Jim and Ariel in harmony mode, sounding fragile but wonderful against a warm bass and intricate guitar. More James Taylor than Wilco at first, it’s nice to hear them sounding so natural; as the track builds and a dobro adds more of a country flair, the arrangement is just lovely.
At this point, another full length album would have been nice, but any new music at all from the Moretons and their band is very welcome. Throughout ‘Time I Got Goin”, House Above The Sun show an easy knack for making the old feel so alive within the present and, as a result, it’s possible to feel the huge amount of love that’s gone into the material. If you’re in any way interested in Americana sounds, this EP really cannot be recommended highly enough – it shows how, although strictly an underground band at the time of its recording, House Above The Sun deserve a higher profile alongside Lewis & Leigh, Worry Dolls and the other true champions of the UK Americana scene.