RALPH McTELL – Somewhere Down The Road (Leola Music TPGCD31)

Ralph is obviously as proud of London as any man can be (with the possible exception of Peter Ackroyd) and in his opening track sums up his love of the city with the light-hearted “London Apprentice” and by adding Chris Parkinson on accordion conjures memories of a bygone era as opposed to the stark realities of life conveyed in ‘that’ more famous London ballad. Evoking memories of early recordings where he showed how creative he could be capturing instrumentally his love of rag-time guitar picking and featured in the “Reverend Thunder (Blind Faith)” with a cheeky homage to the reverend Gary Davis and “Hesitation Blues” Ralph buoyantly proves he is no slouch when it comes to his own digital dexterity whilst the song “Around The Wild Cape Horn” with its allusions of an American based Irish Rover (there’s even mention of a dog in the lyrics) will undoubtedly prove popular with those looking for a more perceptive side to his song-writing talents. Now, I know the term ‘pedestrian’ has been levelled accusingly at McTell’s music presentation (wrongly in my opinion) but if indeed that is a characteristic it has run throughout his recordings but to me personally proves the point that often less is more. An example of this is the delightful “Girl On The Jersey Ferry” where the gentle string arrangement by Gareth Churcher and the Kernow String Quartet create a laid-back, summer strolling by the river effect. “Somewhere Down The Road” is a welcome return after a ten year sabbatical from studio recordings and with fourteen tracks to choose from there should be something for everyone.

PETE FYFE

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