By Andy Whittle
When I started this album running for the first time, I was in the car with my dad. We were on our way over to watch the new Harry Potter film in Burnley, and I thought I'd have a quick listen during the drive.
After hearing the first song, we weren't expecting a huge amount from this album. I mean, it's a pleasant enough tune, but it's ruined by an over use of this really cheesy slide guitar and piano, and a few clunky lyrics. Folk by the numbers we thought.
Assuming this carried on for the whole album, we weren't really looking forward to listening to the rest of it, but as we were nearly at the cinema, we decided to plough on. Thank crunchy! then that the first song is an abberation.
After track one, things improve dramatically. The second track, Market Wrist Watch, is a delicate and clever folk tune, seemingly about an unreliable mate, but one who you put up with because they're your friend. We must all have had one of them in our lives; I'm borderline OCD when it comes to people breaking agreements or being late for stuff anyway, so pretty much everyone's an unreliable sod as far as I'm concerned, but I'm sure anyone can relate.
The third song continues along this delicate tack, but with a more punchy percussive element running underneath. I can't quite work out exactly what the song is about, but it sounds like it's about lost love, which is always a pretty safe bet to go with. Done it myself enough times, haha. Anyway, it's all very pretty.
The next track is a slow waltz, and uses The Spanish Armada as a metaphor for something or other; it's not really clear, and I can't hear many of the words. I like a bit of history in my songs though, and then when he goes on to mention something about canons and playing cards, it all comes together in one of those meaningless refrains that yet seems laden with portent. The funny thing is, the piano now no longer seems cheesy, so maybe the fist song was an odd mix. Who knows.
Track five is actually called 'Wide Awake Waltz,' and seems to run its meter at three beats over five bars quite a lot, which is a very odd waltz. It's very nice as well though. There's a lovely banjo kicking it out at the start of the track, which then drops back to allow the bass to take the melody, and reminds me a little of 'Don't Go Back to Rockville' by REM in their early years, but much more mellow.
'Smoke Screen' follows, and is a piano centred piece that reminds me very much of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata,' but crossed with Crowded House (!) and, of course, with lyrics. It actually also throws to mind a mate of mine called Anthony Brown, or T Spoon. In any case, it's not a bad thing, and the break from the guitar works nicely at this point in the album.
The playing cards metaphor comes back in for the next track. It's a straight "one man and his guitar" affair, and is sweetly melancholy. Track eight, in contrast, is a fast paced skiffle, and once again I like it a lot. It's not as catchy as some of the other tracks, but it's nice to have something upbeat thrown in to liven things up a bit.
Next it's another piano track, but this one's pretty dull. It seems to follow roughly the same melody as the first track, and yet it fails to go even so far as that toward holding my interest. It's called 'Skimming Stones,' and so I'll skim over it at this point as the weakest song on the album.
The final track has a lot more promise from the off, and seems to use dynamics much more than any of the other tracks. This dynamic approach, and a subtle use of reverb, gives this track a much more "epic" feel, and is well suited to being a close for the album. I'm not sure it's the best track, but it certainly fits where it's been put. The ethereal piano floats away beneath the beautiful vocals, while the bass carries the beat and what sounds like a Hammond organ, or even a synth, sighs lightly in the background.
What can I say to sum up then? I reckon I really like eight of the ten tracks on this album, so four out of five is what it's getting. I reckon I'd tell people to buy this, so I'm telling you all to do that as well; so long as pretty, well written, acoustic music is your thing, you won't go wrong.