PAUL McCLURE – Songs For Anyone (Clubhouse CRUK0035CD)

Songs For AnyoneLess than two years on from the release of Smiling From The Floor Up, the warm-voiced Rutland troubadour (formerly frontman for The Hi and Lo) returns with an album he freely admits is not the one he set out to make. By this he means that he handed over the reins to Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires who both produces and contributes keyboards, lap steel, bass, violin, banjo, trumpet and vocals.

The result is much more of a band affair, albeit a band limited to Joe, drummer Mike Monaghan and himself on guitars, mandolin, ukulele and harmonica. Not to forget Hannah Elton-Wall from The Redlands Palomino Company on vocals (her hubbie Alex and Lola-Rose McClure also adding their voices to the mix). It’s also a more directly roots-country album, opening up with the brisk and breezy, pedal steel underpinned ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ setting the blueprint for songs “about love, trying to get it, trying to keep it, trying to understand it, and just getting on with it.”

Harmonica wails its way into ‘Unremarkable Me’, an up-tempo stomp that conjures thoughts of Guy Clark (and mentions doing the shopping) while, sounding like it was improvised in the studio, especially its line about Joe on banjo, ‘I Could Be A Happy Man’ (one of three songs revisited in slightly different shapes from the Hi and Lo album) as a drunken sway walking rhythm that reminded me of a slower ‘Battleship Chains’. A melancholic, fingerpicked acoustic ‘Don’t Take Me Under’ is the first ballad, designed for a honky tonk with the beers lined up in a row, the mood carried over into the raggedly reflective ‘Everyday Is Mine To Spend’, Hannah’s harmonies adding an extra layer of hurt.

Harmonica picks the pace up for the shuffling break up number ‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’, then it’s into waltz time for more goodbyes with Hannah duetting on ‘So Long’, following by the Dylanesque bustling ‘My Big Head Hat Of Dreams’ with its mariachi trumpets and a (unfortunately radio unfriendly) lyric about building walls against those who’d bring you down.

It’s finger-picking ballad time again with the vulnerable, catch me when I fall ‘Yesterday’s Lies’, the album hitting the final stretch with ‘My Little Ray Of Sunshine’ that surely tips the hat to the jug band side of The Lovin’ Spoonful and the slow, organ-backed six-minute ‘A Song For Anyone’ hymn to the power of song to bring friendship, comfort and healing, the melody of which, unlikely as it may seem, actually recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. I did say this was more roots-country, but, as with ‘Lola-Rose’ on ‘Smiling’, for the last track he drops in a whimsical vaudeville-esque ukulele retro pop number, tip-toeing through the tulips with Lady Flossington. McClure says these are songs for anyone, go ahead and help yourself.

Mike Davies

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‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’ – live:

Paul McClure talks about his new album

Paul McClure talks about his new album

Songs For Anyone is the follow up to Smiling From The Floor Up McClure’s debut album release for UK Americana label Clubhouse Records in March 2013.

Well, here it is – The “difficult second debut”.

This is not the album I set out to make. It’s not the album I thought I’d have the opportunity to make this time around…. it is, however one that I’m very excited to be putting out into the world.

It’s the first time I’ve loosened my grip on an album and let anyone else drive. But when someone with the experience and passion for music that Joe Bennett has shows genuine excitement and a depth of ideas for your songs, you know it’s time. Joe is the thinking man’s trumpet, he is the best band I’ve ever written for. I’ve known Joe for a while; I’ve known his music for longer. We were talking on the phone one day and I was trying to decide between the four or five different ways I was thinking of doing this album when Joe said “I’ll do it. I’ll record it for you. Come on down to Truck, it’ll be great” and he hung up…

Joe brought Mike in to play drums; such a versatile drummer, he works fast and he works good! He takes decent photos too. We knew we needed a female voice to cut through between mine and Joe’s and as far as singers go, I couldn’t imagine making an album without Hannah. And that was it. Six sessions later and it was all done. It was important not to over think this album, I wanted it to happen naturally and on it’s own as much as possible. One of the good things about gigging a lot is you get to know your songs. The good thing about working with a multi-instrumentalist like Joe is that you don’t have to get too many people in the room all throwing ideas in, you can hold on to the identity of the songs. That’s not to say two of you can’t find things to ‘discuss’ after 12 hours in the studio – “let’s not over think the shaker part…” was one of Joe’s better bits of advice.

It’s an album of songs about love; trying to get it, trying to keep it, trying to understand it, and just getting on with it… all things I’m terrible at. And of course love of music. Which came first – the heartache or the music? I must have spent over half my waking hours listening to music, often with friends; talking about it, dreaming about it, wishing about it, wanting it. Often on my own. It’s been the one constant since my early childhood of learning songs for days locked away in my room, looking for a way out. I met my wife at a gig. I got through the death of my mother by writing songs about it. I ran away to the road, hid on the stage, told my secrets in code, sang my heart out. The most important thing for me is that i’m honest; honest to myself and honest to the people who Iisten to my songs. I imagine most songwriters, most artists, are in a way creating an autobiography of their lives through their work. So if my album is a chapter of my life then I think this one is an honest read.

It’s been a busy time for me since Smiling From The Floor Up came out. That album was ground zero in many ways; it heralded the start of me gigging on my own, learning to stand on my own two feet, the house concert thing, travelling the country finding new places to play, meeting new friends and the birth of The Rutland Troubadour! We had a lot of fun making this album, I really hope you enjoy listening to it.

So now it’s time for the continuing adventures of The Rutland Troubadour. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… Chapter 2 in which our intrepid hero decides to….”

We have not got an Amazon link to “Songs For Anyone” yet but if you would like to order a copy of “Smiling From The Floor Up”, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

‘My Little Ray Of Sunshine’ live:

PAUL McCLURE – Smiling From The Floor Up (Clubhouse CRUK0019CD)

PAUL McCLURE Smiling From The Floor UpAt first hearing Paul McClure hails from somewhere between New York and Texas. Then you hear certain inflections that are decidedly English in the midst of a style that suggests pre-electric Dylan, maybe around Another Side Of. There’s little to be gained from guesswork, however, we need the facts.

Paul is from Rutland and Smiling From The Floor Up is his third solo album. It was recorded with minimal support, just two backing singers (Hannah and Alex Elton-Wall) and a lap steel (Joe Bennett) on the title track. It’s not quite as live – Paul overdubs piano, accordion, drums and ukulele on his acoustic guitar – but the feel is right, as are the songs.

I take it that the opener, ‘Long Gone Out Of Here’, is about a deceased musician but Paul isn’t explicit. The mention of New York conjures images of night-shrouded alleys and iron fire escapes but the song is a simple hymn of praise to the un-named singer. The final track, ‘Moments Lost’, is initially on the “lonely in a crowd” theme but then Paul is singing about his baby daughter and you realise that the moments are ones that he has lost. Other top tracks are ‘Pollyanna’ – truck-stops, pickups and a girl who is no better than she ought to be – and ‘Any Number You Like (As Long As It’s 4)’ which is about …well actually I’m not quite sure but there is a touch of “everybody must get stoned” about it.
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