Three-part harmonies — when rendered well — are one of music’s great pleasures. If those harmonies happen to be set against a captivating musical backdrop, then all the better. That’s certainly the case with “John James,” the first track from the Isles’ Embers debut.
The Brooklyn-based trio members — Hannah Read (voice/fiddle/acoustic guitar), Tamsin Wilson (voice/acoustic guitar/dobro), and Megan Lui (voice/electric guitar) — hail from Scotland, California, and England. Their widespread geography figures prominently, purposely in their work. For the tale of “John James,” as well as Embers on the whole, the elegantly sparse production by Dan Knobler sets exactly the right mood — a dusky lull that comes off as a meditation on love’s misused potential. Here, the listener is immediately, but gently, transported out to the grey, rocky coast of the UK and into the remorseful, trying heart of a man.
Singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz is a big fan of the Isles, and of this song: “Based on geography alone, these three ladies each bring something unique to their musical canvas. But despite their ability to stand alone as musicians and performers, their astounding voices and musicianship seamlessly meld and create something truly exceptional when combined,” she says. “It’s a lush landscape of sound that keeps you coming back for more. These women were meant to sing together, and this track is just one fine example of their harmonious goodness.”