Steeped in timeless U.K. folk and rock traditions, London duo the Rails deliver a debut LP full of warmth and grace. Kami Thompson is the daughter of British folk-rock icons Richard & Linda Thompson and her musical partner and husband James Walbourne is a veteran solo artist and erstwhile guitarist for the Pretenders and the Pogues, among others. Bearing the weight of their combined musical heritage, the two singers have come out of the gate with a modern gem on their finely crafted album Fair Warning. While her brother Teddy Thompson has worked hard to forge a more contemporary musical path, Kami fully embraces the family tradition on alluring tracks like "Bonnie Portmore" and "William Taylor," where she and Walbourne weave their rich harmonies around classic English balladry. For his part, Walbourne seems equally at home leading the charge on more traditional fare like the bouncy, Celtic romp "Jealous Sailor" while flashing his substantial electric guitar chops on "Panic Attack Blues" and "Borstal." As singers, both he and Thompson each have a strong solo presence, but as the Rails, they are at their most effective, creating a truly classic blend on songs like the sublime country-folk closer "Habit." Produced with a deft touch and a great respect for the material, former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins puts his own stamp on Fair Warning by letting the album revel just enough in its classic folk-rock pageantry without wearing it on its sleeve. Rather than presenting an overtly retro production, the Rails simply sound like very good musicians performing very good music in a warm, familiar style. Perhaps the album's finest, or at least most representative moment is the wonderful single "Breakneck Speed," a track which blends bits of Celtic, soul, blues, and folk so agelessly that it could belong in 1974 or 2014. This is no easy trick, but the Rails pull it off gracefully, sounding perfectly comfortable and natural in their own skin.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger