Photo: Tommy Vo

The Promise Is Hope Offer Journey on Healing “River” (premiere)

Family tragedy becomes a song of inspiration for folk duo the Promise Is Hope on "River".

Husband and wife duo, the Promise Is Hope (Ashley and Eric L’Esperance), return with a new LP, Every Seed Must Die, out May 18. Between the release of the pair’s last set, Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Going, there was more than a little tumult. They lost four family members and watched their local faith community disintegrate. Though the road proved difficult at times, the couple turned to music to work out their grief and lingering questions.

With traditional folk music an important cornerstone of their work, the pair retreated to Old Bear Studio in Batavia, New York to work with producer Chris Hoisington. He brought clarity to the L’Esperance’s voices, keeping the instrumentation minimal. There’s fingerpicked guitar, piano, cello, and Mellotron.

The delicate nature of the sessions and the material’s subject matter is evident on “River”, a tune carried by those rich, emotional voices and the subtle instrumentation beneath them. It is folk music, but folk that doesn’t find any quick or easy comparisons. Instead, it might be said that the L’Esperance’s have found their unique path within the storied tradition.

Ashley notes that the song came into being several months after one of her husband’s cousins committed suicide. “As one can imagine,” she says, “the news that someone you love and have always had in your life decided to take his own life introduced Eric to a new kind of disorienting, confusing, and painful sadness. There are regrets when the question arises: could you have done something to let the person know they were not alone in their pain? The verses and chorus are an acknowledgment of Eric’s experience of the cold and lonely seasons and the desperate cry for relief. This is one he believes is a universal component of human existence. The bridge serves to express solidarity in that darkness, to remind himself that he is not alone in his pain; and perhaps to meet the listener in their pain and say: ‘hold on because the darkest part of the night is just before the dawn, and the sun will rise again… I promise.'”