Nashville based quartet The Deer’s Cry are debuting with the full length album release Rise With the Dawn and the first single from the release, its title cut, will make a big impression on listeners. Devotees of traditional music, particularly Irish, will flock to the band’s atmospheric invocation of a bygone era, but the songwriting and presentation alike never sound dated. Many write about timelessness in music but this is performance art truly achieving that elusive goal because Karen Ballew and her band mates keep their art tied tight to enduring human impulses rather than seizing on the fashion of the moment. It’s this distinction, among others, placing The Deer’s Cry at the forefront of musical art rather than diminishing them to a retro act without relevance in the modern world.


Guest musician Joseph Carmichael joins the band for this performance offering his skills on flute, whistle, and guitar to the recording. He blends into the band’s existing chemistry with little or no effort – the musicians involved sound like they have performed together for years. There’s immense delicacy in the way The Deer’s Cry treat this composition, but it nonetheless has a palpable sense of gravitas rather than sound perfunctory. A single close listen to this recording reveals a band who has addressed the song’s needs on every level and no one aspect of the track shines at the expense of another.

Karen Ballew’s vocals are pure and crystalline without ever lacking heft or sounding too feathery. Her attentiveness to each word is apparent from the outset as is her obvious focus on singing with the instrumentation rather than juxtaposing her vocal contributions against the arrangement. She modulates quite well – the transition in intensity between the verses and refrain is clear without ever sounding heavy handed. Heather Carmichael and Cierra Brannies provide on target vocal harmonies enhancing Ballew’s lead vocal but never in an pronounced way – Ballew remains the undisputed vocal star of the track from beginning to end.

The lyrical contributions are shorn of any extraneous words. Ballew’s writing has multiple layers – “Rise with the Dawn” is, without question, a paean to hope, but it likewise gazes at life in an unflinching way recognizing the difficulties of our days without romanticizing unhappiness or hard times. That’s a refreshing twist on what we’re accustomed to from this sort of material. Like other elements of the performance, Ballew’s lyric achieves a good balance between contrasting emotions.


“Rise With the Dawn” is an excellent way to introduce yourself to this band. It is a fine way to introduce yourself to this band and, without hearing the rest of the album it’s easy to imagine that the other tracks included on the release are likely as good if not better than what we encounter here. The Deer’s Cry are working with traditional forms, but they infuse their performance and songwriting with a vital spirit that sounds thoroughly contemporary rather than ready for the museum. There is definitely an audience for this band and they will build a sizable one in little time thanks to material this good.

Sebastian Cole

The music of THE DEER’S CRY has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Records. Learn more –