It would have been easy for The Rails to have picked up where they left off in the wake of their acclaimed 2014 album Fair Warning. And, had they done just that, who would have held it against them? Within months of its release, the debut set of songs by the duo comprised of Kami Thompson and James Walbourne had harvested myriad rave reviews and sundry other accolades, among them Mojo’s Folk Album of the Year award and the prize for Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. But for a duo brought together by serendipity – they first met during sessions for an album by Kami’s mother Linda Thompson – there was never any doubt that the way forward was to stay open to the vagaries of chance and embrace new possibilities. Three years later, they’re back with an album that emphatically vindicates the pair’s restless curiosity.
Comprised of ten original compositions, Other People is a record rooted in change: both musical and circumstantial. For James, a ubiquitous presence on lead guitar for artists such as The Pretenders, Edwyn Collins and Ray Davies, it was time to inject a bit of voltage into the group he formed with Kami after they became an item in 2011. “With the first album,” explains Kami, “We decided to make a 70s sounding folk-rock record, but this time, we focused our energies on addressing what was happening around us.” In doing so, it became impossible to ignore the other changes that have swept through their immediate and wider environment.
Threaded throughout the whole thing, of course, are the psychically attuned harmonies that have become something of a calling card for Kami and James. In Kami, you can hear something of the lineage that she wears so lightly, in particular the same well of sublime world-weariness that her mother Linda Thompson plumbed both on her solo albums and her records with Richard Thompson. It’s a lineage most outside musicians might have been abashed about entering, but you only need to hear James play to realise that’s never been an issue. Described by Nick Hornby as “an unearthly cross between James Burton, Peter Green, and Richard Thompson”, Other People showcases some of James’s most inspired performances to date. “I think we were all just so relaxed,” he explains, “We wrote a lot before we entered the studio, so we knew the songs so well that it was just a matter of honouring the material.”