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B-N Band Sherwood Forest Puts DIY Spin On Second Album

Cedric Wilder
Brown Bear Creative
Sherwood Forest "No Retreat" album cover

The title track to Sherwood Forest’s just released “No Retreat” EP is a personal plea to an unnamed person.

"I’ve been trying to get to Rome/But all roads seem to lead right back to your home/We couldn’t escape it if we tried"

"I wanted the song to represent the struggles of fighting for relationships that matter most,” said band founder and front man Clifford Close. “The song comes from the perspective that, 'Hey, I know you’re having a hard time, I really believe in this, whatever this is, so let’s continue to fight for this.'"

It could also be an authoritative declaration from the Bloomington-Normal based sextet.

“I never really saw it that way personally,” said Close, turning his head slightly. “That’s an interesting take on it though."

Credit Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest performing at Peoria Pizza Works.

The Aug. 25 release of Sherwood Forest’s sophomore album moves the young group created as a solo vehicle for Close further into commitment. Thinking out loud about the work it takes to keep a band moving forward, Close said he hopes band members will stay the course.

“We’re not full-time musicians. A lot of us are in school, and one of the members has three jobs. I don’t know how he does that,” said Close.

Bassist Trenton Perry, recent from Alex & the XO’s, and drummer Chandler Claps are the latest addition to the Sherwood Forest lineup. Holdovers include guitarists Matt Powers, Kirk Lundeen, and Mitchell Owens.

But the same lush arrangement heard on the group’s three-song eponymous 2016 album is replicated on “No Retreat.” Close said he’s most proud of the DIY nature of this album.

“We didn’t have any outside help, as opposed to our first album.” said Close. “We had total control over this album, recording in our own homes. That can have its own struggles with a group of part-time musicians. That’s also why it took us so long to put this album out.”

Sherwood Forest did enlist help from members of Peoria’s traditional Irish band Turas to help give the SF original “Ballad of a Saint” a little Irish jig.

“I love Turas,” said Close before referencing a previous GLT conversation where he professed his love of Irish music. “I just pitched the idea, and they said, ‘Sure let’s give it a shot.’ We couldn’t get the entire group, but a couple members came over to record their parts. It sounds awesome, I usually get chills when I listen to it.”  

In the 2016 interview, Close also shared how his deep Christianity can creep into his songwriting. That continues on “No Retreat.” The song “Outside” is one example.

"Getting anxious of leaving/And what’s in store/It’s my hand you’re holding/You’re what I live for"

“It tells the story of how I’ve struggled getting outside my comfort zone. About having complete trust in what I believe in, and having no fear of holding back,” explained Close.

And what to make of the opposing lines in “Outside”?

"And I feel so much better/And I’m NOT feeling any better"

“It’s early in the song. The first time it’s mentioned, it’s more of a bluff. In the beginning of the song, the narrator is basically saying ‘I’m fine with the place that I’m at.’ The second line is like ‘Ahh … maybe I’m not so great.’ When the end of the song comes, I was trying to communicate that I actually HAD come out of my comfort zone,” said Close.

The aforementioned “Ballad Of A Saint” wears Close’s feelings more overtly.

"Your words are pretty on the stage/To everyone who hears/You’re getting’ lots of acclimation and bringing them to tears/You think you’re sly, you think you’re sleek/You think that no one minds/But the skeletons in your closet are out for all to find"

“That’s a rant directed towards Christian leaders who live double lives,” said Close. “I wrote this when I heard stories. I thought, ‘Man, you have to lead by example, and then you’re doing all these things that contradict your teaching.'"

I ain’t singing/To hear you clap your hands sings Close on “Tin Can,” the middle song on “No Retreat.”

“It’s an allegory to portray the struggles of being a striving musician.

“If I want to continue doing what I love, then I need someone to give me a chance,” said Close. "Yeah, your applause is awesome and I appreciate it, that’s not all I’m doing it for. If I could do it for free, I would. But that’s not the case.”

“No Retreat” is available on the Sherwood Forest Bandcamp page.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.