The River and The Road
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The River and The Road

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Folk Rock




"Review | The River and the Road – S/T"

Spurred by a submission by one of the bands siblings of a couple of live videos I was desperate to hear Vancouver’s The River and the Road’s self titled debut. I contacted them, and waited. Having to wait while they were putting together the record I played this video again and again. And a month or two later, I had in hand, a full copy of their self titled debut album. Finally. The River and The Road are a two piece Vancouver based Folk Americana act comprised of Banjo player Keenan Lawlor and Guitarist Andrew Phelan. What is surprising is the lack of time at cutting their teeth. The River and the Road have only been a band going on 6 months, yet this record plants them firmly as a band that knows exactly where they want to go, and what they want to do.

Their music is clean, folk / rock , that jangles, plods and dances itself through well written songs of love, loss and everything in between. Their heart on the sleeve style would hint at wide eyed optimism, but even their songs that deal with melancholy feel glass half full. Love lost is sang on their track “Elisabeth,” in a song that obviously doesn’t feel like pining over loss, but a maturity and realization that things just don’t always work out. It’s a different way to put it, but makes the listener and the singer seem that much more hopeful, that it will all work out.

Lawlor and Phelan have a way with each song they sing, they seem so sincere, and I think their instrumentation certainly helps. The banjo has a way about it, especially the way Lawlor plays it. It sparkles throughout songs, creating a warm folky atmosphere regardless of the tone of the song. It draws the listener in through multiple songs mostly it seems dealing with romantic inclinations, and loss. Where I really think The River and the Road hit their stride is on their darker sounding tracks like “Rose Bay,” which may one of the best tracks on the album. It doesn’t necessarily fit in while the happy go luck ramblings, but its more powerful than the songs around it, which creates a stark contrast, and for me, its a must listen. The downtempo feel seems to work well; and they hit this really hard with the shared track above “Too Much.” It’s instantly singable, and practically begs you to holler their words, “if it’s love / then hell i’m gonna sing / i’m the ghost in the corner / hell i’m gonna warn ya / if I die, let it be from a good thing!” I can imagine the power they could hold when playing this live, and I love the track all the more because of it.

Their earnestness and sincerity earned a place in my heart, and I’ve listened to the record again and again and again. If this is the year of honesty and heart on your sleeve folk music, I think the River and the Road will find a lot of success. - Music Savage - Kyle Mitchell

"Review | The River and The Road @ The Media Club – June 14th 2013"

The River and the Road just returned from their 6 month tour of Australia. In guitarist and lead singer Andrew Phelan’s words, they just came back from making trouble, and are returning to make some more. However, at the Media club on Friday night, this Americana band of four young men made great sounding music instead.
The Media Club, even on a Friday can be hit or miss. I was surprised, walking up to the bar on Friday at 10:00 PM to see it overflowing for the River and the Road’s homecoming show. Their fans missed them while they were away.
When we walked in to hear the opening act, my friend leaned over and asked “Why don’t we come here more often?” It’s a good question. The one room black basement’s barely there stage already was blocked with people. Everywhere, people were enjoying themselves, half listening, half talking, and mostly drinking. The opener frontman was charismatic, handsome, and had a good voice. However the music seemed slightly incoherent, like an arts student with no major, as they delved into different genres, without fully owning one. This is probably, because the band is still young, and the drummer was only on his second night with the band. There is definite potential, but they are still in the nest.
Knowing that the River and the Road had been finalists in The PEAK Performance Project last year, I thought they would be good, solidly good. However, I thought they would still sound like a band that was trying to make it. But, they aren’t a band that is trying to make it. They are a band who is making it, which I am now betting will make it, because I want more music from them.
The show reminded me of the first time I heard the Head and the Heart, who funnily enough have a song called “River and Roads.” It was at Sasquatch two years ago, and I’m still listening to that album. I loved their sound and their songs instantly. It was the same with the River and the Road. I will be listening to them for a long time. While the Head and the Heart gives a more energetic show, the River and the Road is more talented musically and are at the edges of folk, country, and rock where Head and the Heart is solid middle ground folk. Most similar are their lyrical themes, songs about being away, coming home, being broke, and finding yourself while balancing your love life.
The River and the Road began with the two powerful singer-songwriters, Andrew Phelan on the guitar and Keenan Lawlor on the banjo. Rounding out and filling the sound is John Hayes on the bass, and drummer Cole George, who joined the duo in the spring of 2012. Andrew Phelan is a Russian looking Australian, with a long, black beard. His voice is beautiful, and catches a striking balance between raw and polished.
The River and the Road digs into country’s roots with banjo playing Keenan who sounds nothing like country-pop today, is hitting that high country yodel, and making it work with electric guitars. I was waiting for the band to bring out XXX bottles, and perform a song with them as the primary instruments. They could pull it off.
Perhaps most importantly is that this band is strikingly genuine. They aren’t trying to be different, they just are. They are telling their stories, and hoping that everyone has a good time listening to them. Simply, the River and the Road is a talented bunch, making great music, and give a show worth going to. - Vancouver Concert Addicts - SAMANTHA ROUSSEAU

"Bobby Heron Album Review"

The River and the Road are a duo based in Vancouver. They’re a strangy confection for the ear, head and heart. When you listen to their first, self-titled album, you’ll hear a sound that seems to have thousands of kilometers of bad coffee and dust behind it. They are however relatively new to the folk music scene.

Andrew Phelan and Keenan Lawlor’s voices mesh together like biscuits and gravy to deliver skillfully written songs that contain elements of roots, bluegrass, country and folk. Both are also distinctively strong vocalists individually carrying their sometimes twangy, sometimes melancholic material with confidence and conviction.

TRATR sound like they could have done a double bill with some of the best of the American folk bands of past generations. Banjo and guitar are prevalent on this album however other instrumentation including piano, drums and mandolin contribute to the earthy richness of their sound. TRATR have recently added a rhythm section, likely to help make the live show more reflective of the album’s arrangements.

This record is what you get when you put a banjo strumming North Vancouver Islander and an impressively bearded Aussie together in East Vancouver and let them play and sing relentlessly. Andrew and Keenan are hard working and dedicated to the entire process of making music. The River and the Road are going places. - BC Musician

"Take Me To The River"

“We started paying the bills by busking downtown, and inviting people to our basement for shows. There would be a little box at the door, and we would take donations for rent. There were plenty of rent days when we would go back out on the street to make the difference up in quarters.”

That’s Andrew Phelan, the bushily bearded Aussie guitarist/drummer of The River and the Road, a very talented indie/folk/rock/Americana group based out of Vancouver. And right now, it’s crunch time for the band.

The River and the Road by Ryan Rose for Poster

The boys of The River and the Road (from left: Keenan Lawlor on banjo, vocals, and keys; Cole George on drums; John Hayes on bass; and Phelan on vocals, guitar, and percussion) are among the top 20 finalists in the Peak Performance competition. They’re battling it out to win $100,500 for “recording, marketing, promotion, touring, musician fees, producer, engineer, studio, [and] video production.” For them, it means going from busking on the street to pay for groceries to a real shot at making music their career.

But they need your help. Take (literally) four seconds to vote for the band. Not convinced yet? Well, read on then. Tough crowd.

The River and the Road by Ryan Rose for Poster

Phelan and Lawlor (above) are the two originating members of the band.

“I met him in East Van at an open mic night on Commercial Drive called Cafe Deux Soleils,” says Phelan. “Keenan’s voice blew me away, and when I found out he played Banjo, I was sold. He’ll tell you there was a girl involved, but you can’t always believe what you hear.

I was working in a butchers shop in the west end, and Keenan had just quit his job at a music shop in North Van. We caught up a few times and played, and when his lease went up I invited him to live in the basement of a place I was living in. I ended up quitting my job, and we worked on some demos and sold them busking through the Winter until we could afford to record the Album in January.”

The River and the Road by Ryan Rose for Poster

The two split the writing and vocals on their (amazing) debut album. Since then, they added George and Hayes to make a full band.

“Keenan and John both played together in another band a few years back, and Cole is from the same town on Vancouver Island. They both learned the songs really quickly for our album launch, and made the parts their own. Since then, they’ve had a big hand in arrangements. They’re definitely permanent fixtures in The River and The Road.”

The River and the Road by Ryan Rose for Poster

The River and the Road by Ryan Rose for Poster

So what will they do with the money if they win?

“We have a couple of ideas that we are going to keep to ourselves. The main two are recording our next full length album in Vancouver next year, and touring really hard through the summer. We want to kick off our first cross Canada tour early next year. But we need to keep some of these secrets to build the suspense.”

So go vote. Make four dreams comes true. Still not convinced? Take a listen.

“There are thousands upon thousands of other musicians trying to make the same impact as we are. It’s so much more than just writing a song and getting a gig. I would love to say that it’s easy work, but then I feel like I might not write with enough conviction,” he says. “And we might not perform with the same intensity if it was easy. We play because we love it, but also because we need to eat.” - This Is Poster

"Play On/Peak Performance Project-Night Two"

Then The River and The Road blew my socks off! At least it was just my socks, some ladies in the crowd had their underwear fly off, I counted at least 4 pairs on stage by the time the band was through. The four gents really did deliver a show-stopping performance; Andrew Phelan (Vocals & Guitar)
Keenan Lawlor (Vocals, Banjo & Guitar), John Hayes (Bass Guitar), and Cole George (Drums & Percussion) are all highly skilled musicians and entertainers who create rhythms and harmonies that are so intricately layered and beautifully traditional. Folk music is clearly on the rise here and with bands like The River and The Road it’s no wonder. They already have a dedicated fan base and Carmen Flannery and Kynna Sorg (number one fans!) testified to the fact that these boys have been on fire even from their early open-mic days at Café du Soleils. Among the many fantastic memories of the set, there was this wonderful moment where the fans were invited up on stage to sing “Too Much” with the boys, proving once again that their vibrant presentation reaches right through to the heart of the listener. I was mesmerized! - VanCityVoice

"Back Home With The River and The Road (VIDEO)"

The River and The Road, in partnership with 102.7 The Peak Performance Project traveled up to Campbell River on Vancouver Island for a charity, in order to give back to the local community and donate proceeds toward the Music program at Carihi - Vimeo

"The River and The Road - "I'm Broke""

The River And the Road – “I’m Broke” Video

by New Music Michael on October 26 2012

It wouldn’t be a Friday without closing out the week with some good down home Canadiana. Though this band’s sound might evoke more similarities with Americana/country-folk. Be that as it may, The River And the Road is a Vancouver quartet whose eponymous debut dropped earlier this year (April, in fact), and is currently available on iTunes. The above video is for the song “I’m Broke”, which isn’t actually on that album. But you know, it’s all good. The song. The video. The album. Well worth a listen. I definitely know a few people in #yegmusicclub that will love this band (if they’re reading this, they should really head out way soon to Edmonton).

The video was shot at Blue Wave Studios in Vancouver BC. - New Music Michael

"The River and The Road & Headwater at The Biltmore Cabaret Review"

Local openers, The River and The Road, who also play a pretty organic style of rootsy rock and pop music, I had heard about for several months. The band name and style of their music led me to be curious about them. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I heard one of their songs on Oswaldo Perez’s ‘Morning After’ radio show on CiTR (Tuesday mornings) that I was immediately smitten! I loved the song and the lyrics really spoke to me! I even asked the song to be dedicated to someone close to me after the song had been played. I thought that the song might lend some comfort to someone greatly needing that at a difficult time. Last week I saw The River and The Road play at the British Ex Servicemen Association as part of the Indie Pop Vancouver Series , and became an insta-fan! Their music made me happy and I had to dance! So, I was pretty eager to see them play at the Biltmore on Friday night. Sure enough, they started their set clearly happy to be playing this show and with big smiles on their faces. Instead of starting out all delicate and building up their charm, talents and hold on the audience, they came out full strength with a lively song! It was clear that the band already has a very avid, ardent and loyal fan base. Which the band even acknowledged at some point, calling out the names of their most devoted fans – who beamed back with glowing admiration and appreciations, it seemed to me. (I gotta say, on a personal note. When I looked around at the people just drinking in the songs, talents, and good vibes of the band, I thought to myself “what lovely people!” and that there wasn’t really a face or person I wouldn’t wanna invite to a potluck or house party if I ever had one. Nice folks, I mean!) The fans were encouraged to come closer to the stage and to dance, too. “Don’t hesitate! If you’ve been second guessing yourself, about dancing! Just dance!” beckoned lead singer and guitarist, Andrew Phelan. By the time they played their song, ‘Straw, Brick and Wood’, there was no pleading or encouraging necessary. I love this song so much, not only the melody of it, but the uplifting, comforting lyrics are easy to sing along to, too. “All you need is all you have inside…….!” Contentment! That’s how I hear that heartwarming song.

Well, I better tell you about the band! This will be a bit more difficult as I didn’t write notes…it was too crowded, I thought…and I’m not very technically savvy in describing music. My impression is that they’re all very talented musicians. I liked the contrast of the more rough and ragged lookin, down to earth lead musicians – banjo player/ lead singer, Keenan Lawlor; Andrew Phelan; bass player, John Hayes; and the drummer, Cameron Strachan , who was dressed more formally in a nice shirt and tie. There was a tidy strength in his drum playing that seemed to hold the other sounds and instruments and vocals all together well. Both Keenan and Andrew took turns leading songs and I found their harmonies quite pretty and copacetic. I think the band is surprisingly tight for such a new, young band! Great chemistry amongst them all! I don’t know if I’ve often seen a banjo player who holds down that ‘fort’ throughout an entire set of music. Not in a more roots rock type of band. It seemed to me that Keenan’s style was a little unique. It didn’t overpower the songs and music, but seemed to hold back a bit, and exuded a subtlety that fit nicely with what seemed like well crafted songs. He definitely plays banjo whole heartedly and with finesse! Plus, there’s an unmistakeable stage charm that he exudes. You definitely wanna sing along to their music! The lyrics are relatable and easy to distinguish!

I was quite surprised by the lead guitarist and singer, Andrew, who is from Australia. When I’d seen the band play last I’d assumed he was one of your ‘typical’ (I apologise for this assumption) and classic bearded, local indie rockers – introverted, thoughtful, but maybe not too expressive. Wrong! I don’t know what his background is, but I tend to think he probably has had a fair amount of experience living rurally, as that’s what I thought he exuded. Earthy, vital intensity. The band stomped their feet in perfect unison, and even yarled, yelped and whooped some of their lyrics. There was a feeling or quality to me that bordered on tribal. (In fact, I briefly flashed on the very unique experience of seeing Peter Garett of Midnight Oil once perform at the Commodore Ballroom. I’d been entranced watching his oh so earthy and almost shamanic and sometimes even a bit animal-like movements and way of conveying a song. Subtley, Andrew sometimes reminded me a wee bit of this. Moments or hints of that.) The River and The Road’s music and set was immediate and visceral. There was no doubt of the connection between audience and band. In fact when an encore was loudly and enthusiastically requested by many, the band obliged “but only if Headwater comes up here and plays with us!” Which of course, th - VanMusic.Ca

"Review – “The River and The Road” – The River and The Road"

Primarily made up of Keenan Lawlor on banjo and Andrew Phelan on guitar, this Vancouver duo known as The River and The Road have created a very familiar sounding self-titled album that is a welcoming one for listeners.

With their brand of folk music infused with a little bit of country, Lawlor amd Phelan appear to have little trouble creating songs, some story-like and heartfelt while others just plain catchy, that work well with all sides of their folk sound.

Speaking of catchy, The River and The Road begins on one hell of a catchy note with “The Patron.” A light-hearted affair, “The Patron” begins a three song set – “Shaking Leaf” and “Elisabeth” being the next two – of foot-stopping, banjo-filled, folky goodness.

“Straw, Brick, and Wood” is another upbeat number that’s hard not to enjoy. With a bountiful band inclusion, “Straw, Brick, and Wood” is wonderfully energetic and a clear album highlight. Throughout The River and The Road, Lawlor and Phelan exchange lead vocals for different songs or simply harmonize with each other for great results – “Straw, Brick, and Wood” is an excellent example of how the guys are able to work their vocals together.

Though the album is not lacking in the get-up-and-dance folky songs, The River and The Road takes some dark turns as well. “Rose Bay” for instance is an emotionally driven, simple singer-songwriter type track and “Haley,” which has a very Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene” feel to it, has equally emotional pitches and a similar minimalistic instrumental accompaniment.

“Blueprint” falls under the more sullen side of the album but with the mix of the banjo right at the forefront of the song, it doesn’t feel as empty as the other slower songs, creating a lush piece.

A pleasing sound and very accessible genre, The River and The Road, both the band and this album, are worth checking out. Finally, in other, unrelated to music, news – Andrew Phelan has a lovely beard worth noting. - Grayowl Point

"The River and The Road Red Room Performance (Sept 20)"

The River and The Road

Jess: This Australian-Canadian band that plays Americana music (what?) introduced themselves to us a few months back, and I’m so glad they did because I knew the words to their hits and was able to sing along with the rest of the audience — how many freaking fans do these guys have?! Anyways they hit off their set with energy, many drums, instrument swaps and a great first pick “Child with A Gun.” They were the first band of the PPP this year to flood the stage with co-PPPers, a move that was very popular with pretty much every single band last year and definitely has a stirring emotional effect on the set. The shower of lingerie landing on the stage had a slightly different effect, however! My favourite tune of theirs, that I was looking forward to all night, was definitely “Diamond” where I stopped taking photos and just took in the song.

Char: The River and the Road sure do have a hell of a lot of fans! Especially fans who are willing to throw their undergarments on stage, which is apparently a first for the band. The band had quite the lineup to follow, and did a pretty good job. I loved the full PPP sing along to “Too Much”. I know that storming the stage was overdone last year, but this time it felt right. It was definitely a good song for it. Their Canadian cover was Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers. Unfortunately The Fugitives had already touched on this song in their medley, but I really enjoyed seeing The River and the Road putting their own spin on the song that made it their own. - Vancouver Music Review

"Highest Downloaded Collaboration In The Peak Performance Project 2012"

The PEAK Performance Project is in year 4 of a 7 year $5.2 million artist development program funded through Canadian Content Development funding from 102.7 The PEAK (Pattison Broadcast Group) and administered by Music BC Industry Association. This award winning program takes 20 emerging artists per year and challenges them to become better songwriters, performers, business people and marketers. All artists start with $4000 in development funding. Next, over 80 musicians descend on RockRidge Canyon, Princeton for a seven day intense Boot Camp. From there, each artist performs at the Red Room in Vancouver and carries out a number of career enhancing challenges. The use of their initial proceeds, the judged live performance, their challenges and public online voting accumulate points for the final adjudication committee to consider in ranking the Top 20. The top 5 artists share in $242,700, the grand prize being 102.7 thousand dollars awarded at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver grand finale concert.

One of the key starting points for any recording artist is writing a great song. Songwriting is a skill that is constantly being developed. This year, we matched the artists into writing teams to co-write 10 songs using the theme of “Love & Bravery”. Producers Warne Livesey, Jeff Dawson, Shawn Cole, Winston Hauschild and Alex (“Condor”) Aligizakis produced, recorded and mixed the songs in 4 temporary studios built in a day at RockRidge Canyon. This could not have been possible without the Nimbus School of Recording Arts ( crew: Studio Assistants Oliver Hart, Brendan Stookey, Isaac Min, Evan Clarke, Joshua Field, Kevin Shuttleworth, and Studio Managers Nygel Asselin and Paul Boechler. - 102.7FM The Peak

"The River and the Road in concert"

The River and the Road in concert Vancouver Band The River and The Road will perform with local acts, Fiftieth Parallel and Who is Barbosa? at Carihi with proceeds from the live performance going to the Music Composition Technology (MCT) Program at Carihi. Tickets are available for $8 at the Campbell River Arts Council, Stillwater Books and Carihi. - Campbell River Mirror

"Music » Recordings The River and the Road's latest keeps building the folk-rock revival"

By John Lucas, July 26, 2012

The River and the Road (Independent)

We seem to be at the beginning of some kind of new golden age on the West Coast, at least as far as musical acts in the Americana and folk-rock genres go. With the likes of Portage and Main and Good for Grapes building sizable fan bases, the River and the Road will no doubt follow suit. The band, based around the original songs of singer-guitarist Andrew Phelan and singer-banjoist Keenan Lawlor, made it into the Top 20 of the Peak Performance Project (along with other roots-minded acts such as Headwater and the aforementioned Portage and Main). So that’s a good start.

The River and the Road lean toward the mellow side, with numbers like Phelan’s “Old Ben” and Lawlor’s “Too Much” floating by like a summer breeze of intertwined acoustic melodies and sweet vocal harmony. Don’t mistake the duo’s light touch for a lack of substance, however. Both songs are about addiction and death, and they sit alongside selections about grinding urban poverty (“Diamond”), loves left behind (“Blueprint”), and giving up on dreams of stardom to drink oneself into oblivion (“The Patron”).

Here’s to hoping that last one isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. Based on the quality of The River and the Road, Phelan and Lawlor shouldn’t feel compelled to hit the bottle that hard anytime soon. - The Georgia Straight

"The River and The Road Live on Shaw TV"

The River and The Road on Shaw TV Vancouver's Urban Rush with hosts Fiona Forbes and Michael Eckford. - Shaw TV

"The River and The Road Live on Shaw TV"

The River and The Road on Shaw TV Vancouver's Urban Rush with hosts Fiona Forbes and Michael Eckford. - Shaw TV

"405 "The River and The Road" Album Review 7/10"

Six months is a long time in the music industry (Just ask Lana Del Rey); so when you hear that six-months ago The River and The Road were just forming as a band, plying their trade in a basement in Vancouver, and now they have released their self-titled debut album and sold out Vancouver's most prestigious venue, it probably won't surprise you. One listen the The River and the Road and you'll understand exactly why their rise to prominence has been so swift.

Though they currently call the bustling city of Vancouver their home, neither Phelan nor Lawlor (the band's only two full-time members) are from the city originally. Phelan draws his influences from the Blue Mountains of Australia, and Lawlor, the wild and rugged environments which lie north of Van City. These environments are elemental in the band's haunting folk/americana sound.

The album's opening track 'The Patron' greets the listener's ears with the intricate banjo finger-picking which features so heavily across the The River and the Road's 12 songs. Toeing the line between folk and country, the listener is never allowed to become too comfortable and settled in the band's sound and the three tracks which follow ('Shaking Leaf', 'Elizabeth' and 'Blueprint') demonstrate this ability brilliantly. On 'Straw, Brick and Wood', the band really hit their stride, with pounding drum solos and infectious pop melodies.

This momentum stops with the abrupt drum strike which marks the album's stand out track 'Rose Bay', a tender confessional about a long-distance relationship. Phelan delivers the line 'Will you keep me warm when I sleep?' with a heartfelt-honesty which is particularly affecting as a listener. This marks the start of a more down-tempo country section of the album; rich with songs of love and loss. 'Too Much' sounds like an gold-rush era American drinking song in the best possible way. The album ends with the track 'Strangers In Our Sleep'; a finger-picked ballad, reminiscent of McCartney's timeless 'Blackbird'.

What The River and the Road have accomplished in their short duration is particularly impressive as this album has the composure, polish and craft of a band who have been plying their trade for a much more substantial period. With this momentum behind them, one feels that it won't be long before they break the comfort of the local music scene and join the ranks of bands such as Dry the River and The Head and the Heart as recognised troubadours of the Americana scene.
Rating: 7/10
- 405

"The River and The Road Album Release Show Review"

Finishing up the evening was the star of the night The River and The Road, who were celebrating the release of their new self-titled album. I had never seen the band before, but was pretty impressed by their folk sound that didn’t leave me thinking I was listening to the same song on repeat. They started out with a foot stomper of a song, I Tried, and then quickly slowed things down. At times it felt like the pace was slowed a bit too much, but this could have been due to the technical difficulties that led to Keenan telling some pretty terrible jokes – though he did give us warning. Highlights included Elizabeth and Jess’ favourite song off their new album Patron. By the time the end of the set had almost rolled back around with Too Much the tiny-but-packed-to-the-brim Media Club was back at the same level of energy that Behind Sapphire had brought. Maybe its the jump across the ocean from Australia, or maybe it’s the banjo-driven tunes, but they have such a unique sound that mixes elements of all-American folk with a laid back attitude, and makes their music so compelling. - Vancouver Music Review

"The River and The Road Album Release Show Review"

The River and The Road played a packed show at the Media Club to celebrate the release of their debut self-titled album. The Vancouver transplants, consisting of the bearded Australian wonder Andrew Phelan on guitar and north Vancouver Island banjo-master Keenan Lawlor, have been busting their asses in Vancouver bars, up and down Granville Street in particular, for a brief time, but they’ve amassed quite the following with their twangy folk rock and good old boy charms.

They’ve made some good friends along the way too. Opening were Dogwood and Dahlia who took a moment out of their set to reflect on times playing basement shows with Phelan and Lawlor to make rent money. They made a great impression with their melancholy trumpet and moody songs that evoked all the emotion of prairie thunderstorms and whiskey-filled hearts.

Following up were the wonderfully loud and fun Behind Sapphire, who strike a kind of shoegaze-screamo balance in their music with layers of sounds and extended riffs that encourage heartfelt wild abandon. Their excitement and enthusiasm were contagious and reciprocated in kind by the enthralled crowd, and they struck an incredibly poignant moment with their cover of 19th century Christian hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” towards the end of their set.

Both of the opening acts set a high bar for The River and The Road, who did not disappoint. The already dense crowd pushed in as close as they could as Phelan and Lawlor took the stage. Everyone loves a banjo, but to incorporate it so beautifully into an acoustic folk and rock sound is really something to behold.

Phelan and Lawlor forego any theatrics with their music in favour of sincere melancholic music about loss of love on songs like “Elisabeth.” The soul and honesty evident in their music and their performance makes you feel instantly better about every loss and bitter memory that you have, even when they’re singing about cocaine addiction. The tempo and excitement steadily built.

They made a blues song dance like a swing tune and escalated to a triumphant pounding rock ‘n’ roll finale that had them playing with the crowd onstage—always with the folky twang of Lawlor’s banjo persisting. It’s no wonder that they’ve been embraced by Vancouver folk fans. The River and The Road aren’t going to remain a hidden gem for long; they’re basically to folk what the Black Keys were to blues, and it couldn’t have happened to two nicer guys. I was totally unfamiliar with any of the acts going into that night, but I was a lifelong fan as I left. - Discorder Magazine

"Other Songs Music Co ?- Album of the Week"

Album of the Week goes to this great band from Vancouver The River & The Road - Other Songs Music Co ? @othersongsmusic

"Other Songs Music Co. Album of the Week"

Album of the Week goes to this great band from Vancouver The River & The Road - Other Songs Music Co.

"The River and The Road - 7.5 / 10"

The first track, The Patron, is such a perfect kick-off and sums up perfectly what I love about The River and the Road. This self-titled album is a great mix of blue-grass, banjo, melodies, and a bit of cheekiness to keep it fresh. After having only seen them once, I know that a record can barely contain the sound of their live show, but its lovely nonetheless. After the first track, the tunes mellowed down for a while. I actually found my mind being taken away to a simpler place, maybe a country house or a river bank. Too Much is the track I remember most clearly from their live performance, likely because it sounds like a belt-your-lungs-out bar song, complete with swaying and stomping. Directly after, Diamonds is perhaps my top pick off the record, which ends with the simply beautiful Strangers in Our Sleep.

Verdict: Simple, beautiful, transcontinental music with a healthy serving of twang.

-Jess - Vancouver Music Review

"The River and The Road Live on CTV"

Named one of Vancouver's most exciting and up-and-coming musical acts, folk duo Keenan Lawlor and Andrew Phelan from The River and The Road perform a track from their debut self-titled album. - CTV

"The River and The Road Cover's "Miss Ohio""

We close our video coverage today with a one-shot from Vancouver rising star duo The River And The Road – a pass-along which comes, unusually enough, from one of the members’ brothers, who is such a fan, he couldn’t resist sending us their take on Gillian Welch classic Look At Miss Ohio. What can we say: the guys are clearly on their way somewhere good; we love the song, and we love the way it sounds in a stairwell, with banjo, guitar, and dual male voices. For fans of the Avett Brothers and Old Crow, especially; it’s that kind of bearded folk, after all. - Cover Lay Down

"The River and the Road & The Left at The Biltmore Cabaret"

The River and the Road are a band emerging from Vancouver although not actually all from Vancouver, who put on a fantastic show last Thursday at the Biltmore opening up for The Left. The two leads, Andrew Phelan (guitar) and Keenan Lawlor (banjo) carried the band through some good old, classic, comfortable folk music that made the audience melt. I definitely heard slight wafts of bluegrass and roots, pieces of Current Swell, and Mumford and Sons in their set. I loved Coolie and Diamond, but all of the music was fantastic. A solid group of steadfast fans danced the set away at the front, but everyone at the Biltmore was having a great time. I would highly recommend the beautiful music and versatile swapping-of-instruments that makes up The River and the Road. - Vancouver Music Review

"A World Of Experiences Condensed Into Song"

Jungle folk: not the most common of subgenres in the roots world. Even the most seasoned of music connoisseurs have probably never heard of jungle folk, which strings together classic folk percussions with a tribal drumming element, producing a vibrant, organic sound, as inspiring as nature itself.

The River and The Road is a four-man act based out of (the impeccably green) Vancouver, B.C., who has created this new branch of folk music. Their songs, videos and performances weave together the lush, natural elements that both folk music and the jungle share, creating an entirely new imprint on the roots vibe to which we are all so accustomed.

TRATR is comprised of members Andrew Phelan (vocals and guitar), Keenan Lawlor (vocals and banjo), Cole George (drums) and John Hayes (bass). The quartet came together in 2011 from separate backgrounds, as well as different continents, following a serendipitous series of events. Lead vocalists Phelan (originally from Blue Mountains, Australia) and Lawlor were at the same Vancouver open mic night in September 2011, coincidentally hitting on the same female patron. Needless to say, it was a rocky beginning for the two talented musicians, but after discovering their shared passion for music they began to collaborate.

“We didn’t necessarily love each other right off the bat, but, over time, we grew a very strong friendship out of music,” says Lawlor. After a year of making music together, and filtering through a series of other band mates, they brought on George and another bassist. The night before they were going to film their first video, the original bassist backed out, leaving them high and dry. They turned to Hayes, a seasoned musician, with whom Lawlor was staying at the time.

After a quick rehearsal, the four members knew they had something special: “He basically came in the next day and we just knew that this was the band,” says Lawlor. It was those fortuitous happenings that lead these four artists together to create The River and The Road, and they have never looked back.

The band released their self-titled album in April 2012, stamping their unique, harmonious folk sound onto 12 outstanding tracks. Typical folk acts usually have only one emotional note that rings throughout their entire album, but not TRATR. Songs like “Elisabeth” are joyous, toe-tapping anthems to which you can’t help but sing along. Skip ahead to “Rose Bay” and you’re bombarded with melancholy feelings from a past relationship that didn’t work because timing was never quite right. This diversity could be attributed to the fact that Phelan and Lawlor write lyrics to individual songs separately and then collaborate with the rest of band to produce the track.

“All of my songs are based off personal stories,” explains Lawlor. “They’re a reflection of who I am and the things I’ve been through, so it’s hard to take on lyrics from anyone else.” These individual life experiences have served as a pool from which TRATR draw inspiration to write lyrics — thus far, this method has worked out swimmingly for the band.

Perhaps the coolest part of TRATR’s musical history is that they ventured out on two massive musical road trips. First was three-and-half-months of busking through Australia, from December 2012 to March 2013. This was followed by the cross-country journey from Vancouver, BC to Halifax, NS and back in October 2013. Unfortunately, the Australian trip got off to a bumpy start when the band’s van broke down in the middle of nowhere. They were left stranded, waiting for the van to get fixed. Although some members of the band developed heat stroke, they also received the official key to the nearest town and became instant local celebrities.

TRATR have created a bright future for themselves, with an upcoming tour and the opportunity to record new material next month. It is clear that, through the influential experiences they have shared, along with their diverse backgrounds, natural chemistry, and sincere story telling, The River and the Road have successfully set their music apart from other folk acts and have left fans yearning for more of that lush, green jungle folk sound. - Beat Route


The River and The Road - Debut self-titled album available on iTunes Worldwide.

The River and The Road ft. Fields of Green - "Separate Ways" (one for the road) - *Currently on Regular Rotation on Vancouver, BC's 102.7 FM THE PEAK*

The River and The Road -



The River and The Road is a band built on risking new beginnings and telling their stories along the way. 

After crossing an ocean, leaving a hemisphere, and a long stint hitch hiking across the American Southwest, singer/guitarist Andrew Phelan made his way to Chicago with the looming need to cross into Canada for work. He had two flight choices—Montreal or Vancouver—and flying west was cheaper. Once there, he found a healthy contest in singer/banjo player Keenan Lawlor, who had been playing around Vancouver for the previous eight months. Keenan had moved across water to forge a new path, but in his case, it was the Georgia Strait instead of the Pacific Ocean. In the beginning the two butted heads, seeing in each other the greatest competition for the attention of an East Vancouver open mic audience. Competition turned to collaboration, busking, and living on scraps together to make their musical existence possible. After several months as a duo, and experimentation with additional instrumentation, they recorded their debut eponymous twelve-track album. In the spring of 2012, the band emerged as a dynamic four-piece with the addition of drummer Cole George and bassist John Hayes. 

In their short history as a band, The River and The Road has grown from a busking duo to an internationally touring quartet. Winter 2013 saw the boys working to stitch their name into the musical fabric of Australia, most notably in Sydney and Melbourne. The band has toured extensively across Canada, completing two coast-to-coast tours among many other regional tours. They are currently filling their summer calendar with festival dates and preparing for their third cross-Canada tour this spring in support of their second full length album, to be released Spring 2015 through MapleMusic Recordings. 

Tenacity, heart, and above all else, a gripping live performance, the band has no plans of slowing down. Sincere storytelling mixed with strong harmonies, heavy percussion breakdowns and dynamic arrangements, embodies the sound of The River and The Road

Band Members