Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Weekly, Volume Eighteen

Fresh Wine for the Horses (Rob Dickinson)
A reasonably solid "debut" album, Fresh Wine for the Horses finds Rob Dickinson returning to the fray, five years after the last whimper of his former band, The Catherine Wheel. Bookending the album are tracks that echo the anthemic material of the old band's Adam & Eve ("My Name is Love" is a winning tune with some nice choral work, while the closing trio of songs reveals Dickinson's long-apparent infatuation with Pink Floyd). In between, it's a mixed bag of ballads and early Catherine Wheel-esque material, with lots of surging guitar fuzz to please fans of Ferment and Chrome. Dickinson is in fine vocal form, and his songwriting ranges from decent to quite good; it's the lyrics that fail him, consisting as they do of altogether too much quaint introspection. Plus, and I don't care if Warren Zevon wrote the song, but anyone who belts out the words "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" with as much sincerity as Dickinson does on "Mutineer," deserves a few demerit points. Luckily, once identified, that track is easily skipped.

Album #2:
Coles Corner (Richard Hawley)
Something of a cross between Mark Knopfler and Ron Sexsmith, Richard Hawley crafts lilting melodies and satisfying introspective lyrics, bringing the package together with his velvety, but just slightly 'off' crooning. He's one of those vocalists who sort of sounds like he's singing from the back of his throat, but the effect is very nice, so whatever he's up to, I say keep on keepin' on. Coles Corner might be a touch bit "schmaltzy" for some tastes (arrangements are pretty straightforward; lots of strings and such; really, there's not a jagged edge to be found in the whole affair), but not everyone can be Bob Dylan.

Album #3:
Velvet Hour (Kathleen "Bird" York)
Forgetting for a moment that she calls herself "Bird," Velvet Hour is actually fairly accomplished stuff from this golden-voiced maiden. As with Mr. Hawley above, it's slightly more "adult oriented" music than I would usually rave about, but I've been really wanting for some good vocalists over the past few months (as most indie bands seem completely unconcerned as to whether or not their singer can actually sing). Velvet Hour features York on the piano and microphone (as well as having written the music), accompanied by some session musicians and the odd electronic loop. She fares less well on the "upbeat" tracks, but the ballad "In the Deep" is so good, it convinced me to buy the whole album (albeit, on iTunes, so it's not so big of a commitment).


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