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New EP Has Sherwood Forest Glowing With Pride

Sherwood Forest's EP release party is Saturday night at the Coffeehouse in Normal
Cedric Wilder
Sherwood Forest's EP release party is Saturday night at the Coffeehouse in Normal.

The principal songwriter and lead vocalist for the Bloomington-Normal folk-rock quintet Sherwood Forest said the group's new EP digs into personal struggles both internal and with family, friends, and lovers.

"Still, My Soul" album cover designed by Matt Martin.

“We wanted this EP to be a sort of calming message, like the inner struggle and everyday conflicts of life,” said Clifford Close of the 5-song “Still, My Soul,” to be released Saturday night with a free show at The Coffeehouse & Deli in uptown Normal.

At the end of the road is where we reside This house seems so small considering the forth of what’s inside I’m getting sick and tired of leaving Leaving you behind Try and drive into the night Erase the memories from my mind - "Glow" by Sherwood Forest

“This is a very personal song addressing my desire to be better for my family,” said Close. “My family has gone through struggles and I’ve always had that … I guess inner conflict of … is there anything I can do? In what way can I be better for the ones I love in order to help things out?”

What do I want for me? I wanna glow for you to see I know I’ve gotta change for us to be free I love you more than words can say Passionately - "Glow" by Sherwood Forest

Close said his family likes the power-pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mumford & Sons album. It’s a compliment to the track most likely to be the breakout single should Sherwood Forest pursue that option, or tour behind the EP.

“Touring has always been a dream to me,” said Close. “I’m always open to it, but only if it would work out for all of us, and for the benefit of the band.”

“In Finem” from “Still, My Soul” first appeared on Sherwood Forest’s 2016 eponymous album. But in much different form, evolving musically from a folk tune to an 80s inspired rock song. Lyrically “In Finem” breaks from the personal to fantasy storytelling about a soldier in medieval times slain in battle.

Don’t cry, dear heart It’s only rivers of blood that pour from my gut Fed by my tears and drained into the dirt I turn my head Turn my face from the death that smiles at me My life drains out along with all my worth You were the verify best of me I’m sorry, love, but can’t you see? I have to give up Just say my name one last time I wish I’d seen your eyes one last time I wish I’d seen your eyes one last time One last time - "In Finem" by Sherwood Forest

“Basically, the whole song is him mourning that he would not see his beloved, who is at home. So, to answer the question, his enemy who has stabbed him in the heart … I wish I could say it was metaphorical, but not really,” he laughed.

“Still, My Soul” is the fifth Sherwood Forest release, counting a live album and Christmas EP. The band has been upfront since that time that Mumford & Sons, Jars of Clay, and Dawes have been a huge influence on their sound. But five albums in, Close said Sherwood Forest is beginning to hone-in on their own distinctive sound.

“We’re finally getting to the point where we can write a song and say, ‘This is a Sherwood Forest song,’” said Close.

But he points to “Worn” from the new EP as an example of 60s singer/songwriter influences including Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel.

“No matter how hard we try, we can never get away from that initial folk sound we originally started with,” said Close. “In fact, originally we had in mind a purely acoustic take on 'Worn.' But to fit it into the other songs we added some synth and more instrumentation”

The album’s final song “Sarcasms” is a light ballad Close said reflects the frustration he was experiencing trying to communicate with people close to him who tended to answer with sarcasms.

I guess it’s some kind of phantasm To dream of holding your chin Let’s dispense with all kinds of sarcasms Considering the state that I’m in Cuz nothings like the truth from your mouth I’m just trying to be real And nothings like the feel of the hair on your skin Don’t know why I’m running away - "Sarcasms" by Sherwood Forest

The albums last track builds to a leap-out-of-your-chair power anthem with multi-layered voices giving the effect of a choir.

“I’ve always been a fan of climactic endings,’ said Close. “We did some gang vocals and some heavy electric guitar that comes out of nowhere. I also wanted some strings, so our producer connected us with Jinty McTavish, who did all the string parts. She layered everything to sound like an orchestra. It gives me chills almost every time I listen to it.”

Sherwood Forest’s release party for “Still, My Soul” is Saturday night at the Coffeehouse in uptown Normal, and it includes a free Sherwood Forest concert.

The WGLT interview with Clifford Close of Sherwood Forest.

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