|Promises is the debut album by rising Americana star Misty River, available October 1, 2021 via The Workshop. The album includes the acclaimed current single “Walk Me To The River”, which has received radio play on BBC Radio 2 and Absolute Radio Country and support from tastemakers including The Bluegrass Situation, Holler, Black Opry and Rissi Palmer of AppleMusic Radio/Color Me Country. Promises also includes Misty River’s captivating debut single “Take This Dance”, which featured on the soundtracks of both the Oscar-winning film “A Phone Call” and the award-winning Netflix documentary “A Secret Love”.
Part of a movement of rising black female Americana artists, Misty River draws from a rich range of cultural influences. Raised on a steady diet of The Rolling Stones, The Dubliners, Roberta Flack and The Band, Misty River’s writing brings to mind the open-hearted honesty of Iris DeMent and Stevie Nicks and also the playful poetry of The Pogues and John Prine.
Misty River is the creation of London-based singer-songwriter Carmen Phelan, with her husband, musician-producer Adam Morley. As the daughter of immigrants – her father is from Dublin and her mother from Trinidad – Phelan spent her childhood between London and the US, her musical upbringing spanning everything from classical to ceilidh and bluegrass to pop.
A childhood prodigy, Phelan won a place at a classical conservatoire but never felt she fitted in there. Her teachers told her to stop playing trad music in case it ruined her technique, and after three unhappy years – and with Morley’s support – she “ran away” to immerse herself in Irish fiddling in the west coast towns of Cork and Kerry.
“It was the first time I felt completely accepted,” says Phelan, whose mixed-race background and Dublin accent had caused raised eyebrows when she was younger. “Because of my looks, I’ve been asked if I’m from everywhere: South America, Asia, the Middle East. But when I went to Ireland, no one said I wasn’t Irish. It was a really different feeling from then on: it changed my perspective on music and myself.”
Phelan has been a sought-after violinist and fiddler for years, touring with acts as diverse as The Corrs and The Kooks, performing on stage and television with artists from Serj Tankien to Sinead O’Connor. In her early 30s, after pains in her hands were followed with loss of mobility and a long period of illness, doctors diagnosed her with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
“At that point it looked like I wouldn’t be able to play any more, and that impacted my outlook on life,” says Phelan. “I was aware of how quickly things might be taken away at any stage. That uncertainty gave me a sense that now was the time to get on with things.”
It was then she began writing, and found her own voice – quite literally. “I started singing about five years ago, and one of the reasons my voice is so unusual is that my condition affects my vocal chords too.”
“Take This Dance” won immediate acclaim and industry offers, but it was only after she took an unplanned hiatus to have her first child that she found the self-belief to make the record she wanted. It brought her into musical partnership with her husband, too.
For Misty River, Morley is her sounding board, her editor, her arranger, her producer – and her dobro player. “I used to have this idea that work and life should be separate,” says Phelan, “but we work together so well. If he’s enthusiastic about a song I keep going, and the things he has doubts are usually the things I quietly have doubts about already.”
As brutally honest as they are beautifully evocative, Phelan admits her songs are usually inspired by personal experience. “But to Adam’s credit he’s never asked what any of them are about, ever,” smiles Phelan. “Which is probably the best thing for our relationship!”
Misty River Promises
02 Walk Me to the River
03 Running on Empty
04 Wishing on the Wrong Star
05 With You Around
07 Four Walls
08 Take This Dance
Released October 1, 2021