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By Steve 'Habibi' Kelk

We wrote last year about young Darwin singer-songwriter Ward Hancock and his move to Melbourne to carve out a career for himself in music. The move seems to have paid off, as he and his band King River Rising have been wowing the scene down there with regular residency gigs at some cool venues and have recently released a 6-track EP, ‘Lucid’, recorded at Hothouse Studios and currently available on all the usual streaming platforms.

Citing influences such as Fat Freddy’s Drop, Sublime and the Black Seeds, King River Rising (formerly Ward Hancock and the Bastard Sons) skilfully mix reggae and rock with a healthy dose of R&B saxophone and lilting vocals by Ward to produce a unique body of work in the indie-rock & roots genres. Ward’s reggae pedigree is easily melded with the more rock aspects of the other band members and the vocals are instantly distinguishable as that of the NT’s favourite musical son. Ward himself has been a student of the Australian Institute of Music while doing the hard yards in Melbourne and the hard work and learning has seen him further develop his signature sound. Ward’s Top End chill juxtaposes perfectly with the other band member’s southern hep.

The opening track on the EP, Send it On, is easily distinguishable as a fusion of reggae with rock guitar licks and some more traditional sax, making it reminiscent of a slowed-down British ska number from that genre’s golden era. Grow Old starts with Ward’s very recognisable slow-falsetto before settling into a chill-skanked song of love and longevity. Too Much keeps the slow pace ticking along but moves beautifully in many directions, lamenting an overly involved and deferential partner. King Tide Skank would have you think it is an instrumental until the solitary verse kicks in about three-quarters into it. This is a powerful and groovy number, heavy on bass fifths and brass and you can really feel that Black Seeds influence – this is good work. Dreams is, well, dreamy, with some very chill sax and guitar over a slow-walk bass line and will probably make people get out their lighters. The smooth, elongated and dark Sleep For The Weary builds tension early and keeps it simmering along until it unleashes.

This EP is full of good songwriting and musicianship, the band having benefited from their constant gigging. Given their relative youth, it is only a matter of time, persistence and hard work before King River Rising bursts its banks and spills out onto the national scene – watch this space.

Get King River Rising’s EP ‘Lucid’ here:


  1. Loved you guys at Tumbafest recently and purchased your Lucid CD. After a fabulous weekend we returned home 5 hrs away and sat the unplayed CD on the kitchen table. Got up next morning and our puppy had eaten it! I kid you not! How do I get another copy please?

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