THE EASTERN: Hope and Wire
By Jacob Connor
Ironic moniker for an outfit so steeped in the cotton pickin’ tradition of the American south – the band name refers to their base in Christchurch port town Lyttelton. Having been instrumental in the post-quake charity record ‘The Harbour Union’, The Eastern now return with a gatefold double CD that is split into two parts ‘Hope’ and ‘Wire’. The tiny gothic script on the sleeve is unreadable, but this music is made with wood and catguts, all certified organic acoustic instruments. There’s bustlin’ banjo and swingin’ fiddle, brushed snares and a ‘live’ treatment to capture it all. The recording by Ben Edwards is intimate and warm, belying the challenges he and the band must have experienced and the fact that the recording was done in an earthquake-ruined suburban house. Singer and principle songwriter Adam McGrath sounds a bit like John Mellencamp to my ears, and his counterpart Jess Shanks has a touch of Emmylou Harris. The songwriting is evocative, Hope & Wire could be a gospel hymn for the Garden City. 20 well-played tracks with lyrics that mention the alps, the mongrel mob and state houses by the river. That’s a lot of material and a lot of heart.