Folk duo Cy Winstanley (guitar and vocals) and Vanessa McGowan (bass and vocals), known as the Tattletale Saints, won the New Zealand Music Award for Folk Album of the Year (2014) with their album How Red Is the Blood. After having listened to the album a handful of times in its entirety, I can fully understand why they were given that particular distinction.
Judging by the twelve songs which make up the whole of the Tattletale Saints' How Red Is the Blood, these two Kiwi expatriates based in Nashville, Tennessee, seem to avoid overly complicated music and overkill. Strings and voices mark these rich songs with subtle yet captivating arrangements, beautiful vocals and quality lyrics. Winstanley picks and strums his acoustic guitar while McGowan pulls and thumps on the thick strings of her upright bass, and both sing, sometimes alone, sometimes together.
There is a timeless quality to the Tattletale Saints music, simultaneously classic roots and modern revival, placing them alongside the more notable artists of today's scene. There are elements of folk, good old Appalachia style music, and a splash of country in their sound, too, which they do exceedingly well. And this all comes together to create well-written songs with stirring vocals.
Of the twelve tracks on How Red Is the Blood the two that standout for me are the strong folk piece "Complicated Man," a song about Hank Williams titled "Hank," and the jazzy closer "At Last." See the video attached to this review of a live version of the Tattletale Saints' "Complicated Man."