CHRIS DOVER – It’s A Difficult World (own label)

It's A Difficult WorldAn Americana singer/songwriter based in Bradford, accompanied by Anneka Latta on harmonies, bassist Joel Smith and the perhaps not really named Tsar Nicholas III on drums,

Dover makes his solo album debut with this impressive set of largely slow-paced songs that nod to his assorted influences. It starts, though, with a lively bluegrass, handclapping romp, ‘Billy’s Song’, an encouragement to look on the bright side of things  (“Think of the light in your girl’s hand/There’s more bright days than dark nights/In our little land”) and not fall prey to dark thoughts. However, depression is a hard road to travel and on the slow and ponderous Dylanesque roots blues ‘It’s A Difficult World’  the light refuses to shine  (“I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t believe you/It’s a difficult world I don’t seem to fit”) because “We burn the house to cause ourselves pain”.

Depression is there again in the familiar image of the black dog on spare fingerpicked blues ‘The Hound’ as he sings how “I might need that man in white before I leave town”. And, despite pedal steel shimmers, the world’s no brighter on the alcohol to numb the pain-themed ‘Whiskey Head’ as the ghosts torment (“I know you’ll be back here every night/Can’t stand in an empty hall…It’s never an easy fall…Oh for another life/We both hate a sobering mind”).

It does lighten up though with the acoustic strum and circling notes of ‘Apple Tree’, a Cat Stevens-ish parent to child song  (“I know watching you grow might be hard/But I have faith that you see me/Know we’re here to never let you down”), leading into the fairly self-explanatory folk blues ‘I Don’t Want To Fight’ (“Together well be sure to find our way/But it’s alright with me/When we disagree/I’ll try to understand the other side”) which vaguely reminds me of a slowed down take on Rick Nelson’s ‘Garden Party’.

There’s storysongs here too, the first being the fingerpicked bittersweet ‘Last Getaway’ (“They left the church on their wedding day bags in the car at the end of May/It’s all smiles And hopeful gaze/They held hands in the spring time rays /The perfect moment to be/Lasts so fleetingly”), followed by the Prine-like waltzing carousel standout mortality-themed ‘Jesus On The Wall’ where he asks “Are you helped by beliefs? When needed the most?” which questions the nature and influence of religion (“It’s taken many a life/Under many names/Yet we still blame the picture, never the frame”), observing how “It’s a funny new world, When a book still starts fights”, but acknowledging how faith can bring comfort as you face the end (“I dream how it must be/To head towards divinity/Not question what awaits”), and wishing he had that.

The last of the self-penned material is another narrative track, the fiddle accompanied, shaker-percussion ‘Ain’t Coming Back’, a tale of a tanker driver, guessingly carrying contraband, stopped by the cops and now on the run from the law (“This old outlaw knew he’d sealed his fate/When he fired those bullets and he knew they had his name/

He’ll be on the run for the rest of days”). It ends with a cover, a bold reworking of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ as a slow burning stripped back acoustic blues that he truly makes his own, a glowing sign off to an album that marks Dover’s return to music after a lengthy break following the break-up of West Yorkshire alt-country outfit Hoodoo Operators, and lays down a path to a very promising new journey.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘It’s A Difficult World’ – official video:

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