ROBERT LANE – Only A Flight Away (own label RGL 03)

Only A Flight AwayFollowing his excellent EP/mini-album, Ends And Starts, Robert Lane has been touring and writing and is back with a full length album with a startling cover design. Made on a crowd-funded shoestring with producer Matthew Pinfield again supporting on drums, bass and piano, Only A Flight Away adds one new name, Lucy Phillips, to the cast and turns the wick up.

Where Ends And Starts was largely acoustic with electric bits, Only A Flight Away is mostly electric. It opens with a bit of prog nostalgia, a short instrumental called ‘The Hundred House’ which gives Robert a chance to show off his electric guitar. At first, you may wonder what you’ve let yourself in for but Robert is a clever and inventive song writer and it always pays to wait and listen.

‘Man Of The Moment’ starts in the same vein. It’s an unveiled attack on a certain US politician but these days you can pick your own target. The clever thing is that, having blasted it’s way through three minutes it suddenly ends in a few bars of a solo acoustic something – probably guitar, but I’m not entirely sure. Having brought things down, Robert switches to the bluesy finger-picked ‘Baby Knows’ and then builds up again through the acoustic opening passage of ‘Right By My Side’ into a rich string-drenched song..

‘Far Too Busy’ has one of the best opening couplets I’ve heard in years. ”She won’t say dirty words, you find they stick in her throat/But she will do dirty things, she never said that she won’t” suggests one kind of song but I think it’s about isolation in the modern world and is probably the best song on the album. The title comes from the penultimate track, ‘Bill Frost’s Flying Machine’, a philosophical song with just a touch of whimsy, and finally we have ‘Who Do You Think You’re Talking For’, a sort of companion piece to Man Of The Moment’. Actually, this could be the best song on the album, too.

It’s a cliché, but Robert and Matthew use the studio like an instrument with multiple overdubs and tracks merging into one another. There are just three musicians here constructing a variety of sounds and styles. I doubt that this album can be reproduced on stage but the songs are strong enough to stand alone with just an acoustic guitar. This is a bloody good record.

Dai Jeffries

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There’s nothing on-line from Only A Flight Away so here’s an oldie – ‘Break My Heart Blues’ live: