By Tristan Mackay
Having spent many an enjoyable hour sitting on a bench in Leeds amazed at Tristan Mackay's busking, to hear an album as good as this is almost as exciting for me as it is for him. On handing me the album he said modestly, 'I hope you like it,' and having spent the last 40 minutes losing myself in the world the album creates, I can confidently say, 'I loved it'.
Tristan Mackay is Britain's long-awaited answer to John Mayer, however to merely liken him to Mayer, as if he's some copycat is a complete injustice. Tristan's style is unique and takes influences from a wide range of sources, that elevates him to John Mayer's heights rather than simply standing on his shoulders.
The album, Out Along The Wire, is a collection of songs from differing styles of music that are connected together through the expressing of the emotions that dominate everyday life in in his refined soulful way. It's also an album of stories and these give his songs interest as well as creating a comforting reassurance that everything will be alright in the end.
The 14 tracks that make up the album are a mix of short interludes, straight up pop songs, blues pieces, funk anthems and strings-infused ballads. 47 seconds of Fire and Flame begins the album with poetic lyrics and a simple melody that sets the scene for the rest of the album. Swiftly followed by I Found You, an optimistic song that shows off Tristan's melody skills throughout. The organ plays a key role in this song by sounding piercing at times and haunting at others, giving the song a soulful sound with a nod to the musical arrangements of yesteryear.
The lead single, Holding on to You, is up next: the catchy guitar riff seems as if it should belong on television and movie soundtracks with its bright and lively sound. Suffice to say, this is certainly going to be one of the songs of summer 2012, get ready for it to be heard everywhere. The Clapton-esq guitar delivers the flavor to Don't Let Me In, this slow song uses blues guitar to great effect to mirror the emotions within the lyrics. This song is a great example of Tristan's remarkable guitar playing and proves he is up there with the likes of Clapton, Knopfler and Mayer. Moonlight follows and is another short song that graces the album with a warmth and charm, much like Tristan himself.
There's not a lot to say about Last Love except for that it stands up as one of the best love songs that I have heard in a long while, it certainly matches the emotional pitches of Adele's Someone Like You and in my opinion it deserves to be as successful. Strings, guitar solos, huge drum entrance half way through are all essential to do the song justice, certainly an album highlight.
The similarities with John Mayer can be heard a lot on Million Little Things, the sharp guitar lines and soulful vocals bring this song to life in a method very similar to Mayer's. Still Here exemplifies what Mackay wanted to do with the entire album, a folk style acoustic guitar with finger picking fused with electric guitar blues style, applied to a well crafted popular song.
Lonely By Myself is a complete seventies funk track and really spices things up half way through the album. It's got everything a seventies funk track should have: funk guitar, Hammond organ, gospel-style backing singers and it works brilliant, clearly Stevie Wonder is among the heroes of Tristan Mackay.
Let Them Know is next up and is the last upbeat pop song on the album yet it continues the optimism generated by the earlier songs. Lyrically it follows in the footsteps laid down by Billy Joel's Tell Her About It however such optimism about relationships is rare in today's music and it's refreshing to hear. Who Are We is another short song, that sounds to me like a cheerful James Taylor with its gorgeous finger picking guitar and mesmerizing vocals.
Tristan goes back to his roots with Wherever You Lay Your Head, which is straight upnacoustic blues, a style of music that Tristan was born to play. Anyone who remembers hearing Tristan busking in Leeds will be familiar with this style and Tristan's expertise in it. Next is Never Run and I feel like this picks up where Who We Are left off, another short song with a simple arrangement, beautifully played. The title track, Out Along The Wire, concludes Tristan Mackay's debut album. The slow piano-led ballad is the perfect finale that almost creates a sense that the credits are rolling and the journey is coming to an end.
Out Along The Wire is a well crafted album by a songwriter who is well educated in musical style and taste. It has a very anti-X Factor ethic and restores faith in popular music as an expression of the soul. As a huge John Mayer fan, I am thankful that we now have our own singer-songwriter who can stand up to the American giant and that more Mayer-style music is available. I strongly recommend this album to anyone who wants a little more out of the singer-songwriter than James Blunt and James Morrison deliver and of course to any John Mayer fans. Having said that I am certain that this album has a broad target audience and almost anyone could enjoy it. A real promising album from a real promising talent.