record reviews july 2017


The Nothing (Self-Released)

In his youth, songwriter Jamie Cameron lost his best friend in a car crash and has been haunted by it ever since. A musing on mortality, this album is an attempt to put ghosts to rest by way of a celebration and a reminder that things aren’t always as bleak as they appear.

Opening with the strings enrobed Atoms, it never rises beyond more than a whispery sung lazy acoustic strum, the folksy slow shuffle Grow a song about the cycle of life and returning to the soil to grow new seeds again while, The National Stage is a drone, viola and piano instrumental. Titled like All My Faith, a gorgeous swelling melody as a chorus of voices intone ‘you will be loved’, and, one of the few to feature drums, We’ll Greet Death, with its sax, banjo and birdsong are pretty self-explanatory.

Set to a piano arrangement, pastoral mood instrumental The Body Collapse is a gentle highlight, flowing into the simple folksy acoustic strum of I Couldn’t Wait and the hushed atmospheric lonely piano and strings instrumental On Water before touching on post-rock territory for the near six-minute minimalist The Sea with its fingerclicks, cymbal waves and brief, barely there vocals as it climaxes in a swell of strings. It ends with the brooding deep piano notes and viola of Goodnight, a fine farewell to an album best played in the gathering evening with the lights down and the soul open.

Mike Davies


Heath Common and the Lincoln 72s (H4Head Music)


A survivor from the art rock scene of the 80s, he’s documented the times in his latest album, inspired by and spanning stories and characters from Halifax in West Yorkshire to Notting Hill, the first up being Halifax Gala Queen, about a faded beauty queen who also happened to be his babysitter in the 60s. It begins with a spoken passage before blossoming into an initially acoustic Bowiesque feel circa Space Oddity and, from there, building into electric Floydian swells. Halifax is also home to Jack Brown, a notorious bouncer from the Mixenden estate, a fractured track of discordant piano, spoken lines, clattering drums, beeps and whistles and layered vocals. A lush Godley-Creme styled strings-backed 70s ballad with echoey vocals, Room At The Top is about the Woolshops, a deprived area of Halifax that was home to the town’s Irish community, while Spirit of Ogden, about a reservoir that was a popular local camping spot, is more prog with its spoken lines, strings, swelling harmonies and big anthemic guitars.

The Halifax set ends with the reflective and emotionally yearning Mixenden I’m Coming Home, a simple acoustic guitar, strings and piano ballad that again opens with a spoken passage about the Wheatley and St Malachy communities of his childhood that gives way to a choral title refrain. Then it’s off to Notting Hill with Satori In The Sky, the musical mood switching to a rowdy 70s art rock rock swagger before the appropriately Bowiesque Basquiat and Warhol which, with spoken passages interspersing the sung lines to a steady slow march beat, documents the New York exhibition organised by a friend from Notting Hill.

Accompanied by gypsy accordion, the spoken memoir Still Howling reflects on The Poetry Olympics of 1965 while, backed by piano, The Busking Bodhisatta looks back on trying to keep body and soul together on the streets of Notting Hill Gate. Finally, it closes with the swaying cabaret, mazurka-styled Anita Pallenberg, a tribute to the Italian actress who starred in Performance and was a former girlfriend of Keith Richards. The sleeve notes rather unfortunately mention that she can still be seen biking round the area, Pallenberg having died on June 13, after the CD went to press. Common’s an acquired and perhaps rather limited taste, but anyone with shared memories of the period or a fondness for the Bowie and Velvets sounds of the area will appreciate this.

Mike Davies


We’re All In This Together (Melvin)


Fronted by Todd Snider and featuring Dave Schools and Duane Trucks from Widespread Panic, ubiquitous guitar sideman Neal Casal and Chad Staehly and Jesse Ayock from Great American Taxi, Hard Working Americans are pretty much textbook blue collar Southern rock n roll boogie. This is their first live album, recorded in Birmingham, Alabama, and suggests they work closely from the rowdy rock pages of the Springsteen template, complete with the repeated crowd rousing lines and working man versus the system introductions. As such, they play a tight and hard rocking show with loads of muscular guitar and gallons of sweat. Unlike the Boss, what they don’t have, however, are any memorable songs and while this may sound fine coming full blast from the car speakers, when it’s over the only number likely to be still ringing in your head is School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell), a Chuck Berry cover.

Mike Davies 2020