THE QUESTIONNAIRES – Atlantic Ridge (Boom Chang Records BCCD018)

Atlantic RidgeThe Questionnaires are a ten-piece duo from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. What I mean to say is that at their core is the songwriting duo of Jane Wade and Steve Hall supported by eight more musicians. Their style, as exhibited on their second album, Atlantic Ridge, is Anglo-Americana mixed with AOR-inflected pop. It’s a very sophisticated album and I’m struggling to find another band to liken them to. If I said Fleetwood Mac I’m sure they’d be quite pleased but they don’t have Mac’s brashness so that’s not quite right and, anyway, Mac don’t play country.

Their songs are all good and their sound can be really big but The Questionnaires know the value of restraint. The key sounds are the Dobro and guitars of Jim Hornsby (once a sidekick of Martin Stephenson if I’m not mistaken) and the violin, viola and mandolin of Niles Krieger of Assembly Lane. Underpinning everything are the drums of Steve Dolder, once of Prefab Sprout, so you can see that The Questionnaires have quite a pedigree.

With only one vocalist and Jane Wade doing all her own backing vocals there could be a danger of the record sounding a bit samey but songs like ‘Only Then’ and the organ-driven ‘You Don’t Need It All’ ensure that doesn’t happen. In fact, Jane becomes her own choir on what is probably my favourite track, ‘Ordinary People’. There are two bonus songs introduced by Jane; first comes ‘It Always Rains On Saturday’ from their first album, Arctic Circles, and second is an acoustic duo version of ‘Anna Blue’ which appears in its full glory at track five.

At first hearing I thought that Atlantic Ridge wasn’t going to be my thing but repeated listening has brought more and more to my attention. As I said, these are good songs and there are some really good musical flourishes, notably from Krieger. I’m really getting into it.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://thequestionnaires.bandcamp.com/

‘You Don’t Need It All’: