BILL MADISON – Only A Dream (own label)

Only A DreamThe Florida-based singer-songwriter’s follow-up to last year’s If I Had The Time is, like that, mostly self-penned, three again in collaboration with wife Nancy, and, again, offers a rootsy acoustic collection of folk and blues numbers. That said, as the title suggests, the opening track, ‘Barefootin’ Boogie’, finds him in rock‘n’roll mood, albeit very much in its original blues-influenced style with slide guitar.

Taking the non-originals, ‘Lord Franklin’ is, of course, the much recorded traditional staple, here refreshingly reimagined as a fingerpicked American folk tune, Madison’s voice once more conjuring thoughts of the great Stan Rogers, serving reminder that these songs can take on new life given artists keen to work outside of the familiar boxes. The other, and at nearly six minutes, is ‘Sammy’s Bar’, a cover of an unrequited love song (that ends with the girl dying in a car crash) by the late lamented Hampshire maritime and traditional folkie Cyril Tawney, originally recorded in 1960 under the title ‘The Last Boat’s A Leaving’, the bar in question being a haunt of submariners in Malta. Tawney’s version (and other covers) was in a shanty style, but Madison takes the tempo down for a slower, more melancholic fingerpicked arrangement.

Of the self-penned material, one, ‘Oceans of Love’, is a reflective Spanish guitar instrumental, the others variously a mix of the personal and political. Evoking Pete Seeger in his more solemn moments, ‘Trying To Be A Friend’ treats on isolation and lost love, ‘Friends In Love’ a strummed celebration of finding the right one, the circling pattern title track, co-penned with Scott Roby, reflection on a relationship that’s ended while ‘All She Wanted’ has him explaining to a self-absorbed man exactly why his lover left him.

The political comes with ‘Farm Boy’, an anti-war protest song about how it’s so often the blue collar youth that become a nation’s cannon fodder, the album ending back in midtempo slide blues gospel boogie with the ease on back when this life’s over ‘When I Get There’, Nancy providing the harmonies. There’s no fuss or frills here, just the relaxed come on over and settle down sound of an artist who has no need to prove his craft or musicianship, and whose company it’s a pleasure to share.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Lord Franklin’:

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