Review by Mabh Savage
Welcome to the mellow corner, where we take a wee break from rocking out and listen to something more chilled while we have a cup of tea or something equally rock ‘n’ roll.
Sitting in my inbox is the link to Paul Davy‘s album, Better Late, which refers to the time elapsed between song writing sessions; thirty years in this case. At first glance, I can see this is a folk album in the truest sense of the word: music about and for the people. Davy has allegedly been influenced (upset) by the UK Tory party’s idea of Big Society and how it leaves people behind. As well as folk influences though, there are threads of blues and rock that weave a lively tapestry upon which poignant words are embroidered.
The first track, Karen, is a sad tale of homelessness in the city. This starts the album in a slightly morose manner, but with a surprisingly sing-a-long chorus. The tune and vocal reminds me intensely of Neil Young, circa Harvest Moon. The chord sequence bounces along, belying the despair in the lyric:
A life all battered and bruised.
Condemned, ignored and abused.
Give her the way to make it all go away.
The words hold a combination of observational detachment and a plea for compassion from the listener. A touch of strings only adds to the sense of melancholy.
Woman on the Track is an odd ditty with a refrain that will no doubt have a whole pub singing along (presuming Davy is gigging?). I’m not sure if the woman is just drunk, or if she has simply had enough, but she’s on the track and in danger, of that we are sure. I wasn’t sure if the refrain was clever or simply repetitive at first, but I’ve had it stuck in my head for two days now so well done sir, well done.
The next track gives us our first hit of blues. One Chain Road is a catchy, funky tune, with my only complaint being that it’s a little neat and tidy for a blues tune. I like my blues a little less produced; a little rougher around the edges. Also, this track needs a blues harp solo. Needs it. Lovely slide guitar though.
Tale of our Times harks back to the awful events of Morecambe Bay, 2004. For those that don’t know, 23 people died whilst picking cockles in Morecambe Bay. The workers were all Chinese, were illegally employed and had no clue about local geography including the tides. They were cut off by the tide and subsequently drowned. Davy’s aim isn’t just to relay this sad tale to us though. He points out that the gangs that deal in people trafficking have no compassion towards these human losses. Underlining this point, Davy bitterly sings
There’s plenty more fish in the sea.
The melody to Look Around and Turn Away reminds me of Horslips in their gentler moments, while the instrumentation is closer to some modern American folk music, with just a touch of country. The whole album is produce by Nigel Stonier who is classed as an ‘A-List’ producer, having many of the tracks he has produced played on mainstream radio. More impressively (for me) he has worked with Fairport Convention, one of my all-time favourite folk bands. Davy has bagged a real powerhouse of talent with this producer, and I hope he hangs on to him!
The album goes all bluesy with When the Train Comes Along, and then we are taken on a trip around London on a Tuesday night. The Sandpiper calls to me of the shore, quiet evenings in Whitby and dusk on a wave swept beach.
Davy is good at painting little snapshots of life. He takes a moment and brings it to life for you, so you can see straight through the eyes of his memory.
My yearning for the blues harp is satisfied by Same Thing Every Year, while the following track, Take me Down that Path follows a melody that speaks to me loudly of my beloved Fairport Convention. Many brownie points are awarded for these two tracks.
You’ll be Fine starts with a gorgeous fiddle riff, followed by a lyric that seems to come from either a leaving lover or a passing relative. This song epitomises the ‘sweet sorrow’ of parting, with the singer reassuring the protagonist that they have no need to worry.
In the finest tradition of folk, the album ends with a lullaby, sung directly to a child; a baby, in this instance. A sweet ending to the album, but not the strongest song on here.
I was impressed by the diverse mix of topics Davy puts his pen to; from topical observation to deeply compassionate and personal ditties. His voice carries the words clearly and true, and the production of the album lets this really shine.
The album is available on bandcamp, and handily each track has the lyric attached so you can peruse Davy’s words about the world in case you miss the detail whilst enjoying the music.
I sincerely hope there isn’t another 30 year wait for another album from Mr Paul Davy. A fine first album, from a songwriter who shows a real potential to make a mark in the modern folk and protest scene. 4 stars from me.