Vanish Valley's debut works best when it stretches beyond its traditional folk underpinnings and tries more adventurous instrumentation.
Vanish Valley is essentially a self-recorded one-man folk project by musician Andrew McAllister. The album feels rural, but modern. Folk songwriting underlies the songs on the album, but McAllister also uses a lot of electric guitar, both clean and distorted. He also tosses in electric piano and drum machines from time to time. Those instruments rest side-by-side with more time-honored folk arrangements featuring acoustic guitar, harmonica, and tambourine. It's a winning combination, largely because McAllister is a good songwriter and arranger who knows when certain elements fit best in a song.
Album opener "Bad Things" makes great use of buzzing electric guitar and organ along with a killer refrain. "Become the Night" is a gently rolling guitars-and-banjo song that greatly benefits from the simple drum machine beats that back the track. The dark, after-midnight slow rock of "Blood of the Famous" perfectly suits McAllister's pitch-black lyrics, as does the variety of hollow-body electric guitar sounds used in the song. The only thing that holds Vanish Valley back is that the traditional-sounding folk songs are almost boring compared to the album's more adventurous tracks. McAllister may need to unleash his wild side even more in the future.