By Nick Hall
I always deem it wise to respect an artist's decision to go solo (rather than ask questions) and especially those who then decide to produce a solo album, all that despair, loss; love and heartbreak in one album must surely be an intense experience to put yourself through?
The saying goes that you have all your life to write your first album but usually about 12-18 months to write your second (that's assuming that anyone was interested in the first one. all that despair etc.).
The opportunities to indulge yourself and go power mad in the studio ("right that's it I'm playing all the instruments on this song") are truly seductive and historically and tragically some songwriters have found that their ego has not entirely been in check during this process.
Good news though, Nick Hall has neither let his ego stunt his artistic growth or allowed his new found 'freedom' to isolate him from others abilities to enhance his music. 'The Golden Time' is full of guest musicians and friends all wanting to help out and because of this the music bounces along with individual flourishes that a single artist could not emulate.
This 12-track debut album from one half of Otleys popular Hall Brothers emanates good vibes from start to finish and demonstrates Nick's ability with a catchy tune and infectious chorus. Nicks background is from the rich seam of singer/songwriter talent that stretches throughout the Wharfe valley and beyond.
One of Nick's strengths is his ability to pen an insightful turn of phrase. The odd occasional clumsy line can quite easily be forgiven (beware attempting to rhyme the word 'hiatus') within the context of a strong melody.
Opener 'Big Hearted Northern Boy' starts all acoustic strum and rain sodden lyrics but is let down by some slightly out of context overdriven power chords and delayed vocal effect. Good idea, badly executed.
The stand out tracks for me include 'Patching Up My Soul' which introduces the theme of healing via a Beautiful South style boy/girl duet with great three part harmonies and a chorus that lifts the soul.
The title track 'Golden Time' takes the road of recalling a better time or regaling others with those choice moments when everything comes together (yes I know it all sounds a bit 'A-Team' but stick with me).
Nicks voice proves intimate and beguiling throughout and he handles folk and rock/pop with equal deference whilst still evoking memories and stories with great clarity and genuineness.
What tends to let the album down at times is perhaps a lapse into an 80's style production and lightweight sound that doesn't do the songs justice. This of course may have been part of the vision, however as a listener I wished at times for a warmer, bigger sound.
One reason for this could have been that the acoustic guitar which guides the songs sounds like it was DI'ed instead of being miked acoustically, something that I believe contributes a great deal of warmth and atmosphere to any production. I may be wrong though (it has been known).
Overall I'm sure that this first solo album will no doubt do wonders for Nick's confidence and potential for building on his already good reputation. And if everything works out and he goes on to great success then does that mean that it's the golden time? Hope so.