STYLUSBOY – Routes (Tortoise Recordings)

RoutesAlthough Coventry singer-songwriter Steve Jones released the Out Upon The Ocean EP in May, it’s been six years since his last studio album, Hospitality For Hope, so, again working with Nizlopi’s John Parker on double bass, Routes is a welcome return for his lo-fi folk.

It opens with ‘Embrace The View’, one of two tracks that featured on the EP in live versions, Greg Schofield on keys with Destroyers drummer Tim Bowes holding down the walking beat on a number about being in the moment and embracing life as it comes and looking to the horizon rather than behind. A long-established live favourite, the other is the melancholic five-minute slow waltz ‘For The Souls of My Brothers’, a gospel-tinted song of loss based on his own family history and set to the backdrop of the Coventry Blitz during which his great grandfather worked as a fireman.

The EP’s title track is sandwiched in-between, jauntily tracing a similar thematic path to the first with Wes Finch on electric guitar who also appears on the shuffling drums and choppy rhythmed love song ‘All The Details’, co-writer Jess Morgan on harmonies (elsewhere courtesy of Holly Hewitt). There’s a rockier, bluesy feel to ‘Find Your Gold’ about not spending your life like a covered up portrait that no one sees, but then it’s stripped back down again for the touching acoustic fingerpicked reflective ‘Keep You’ with its theme of memory and constancy. Further fingerpicking can be heard on ‘Open The Door’, an equally uncluttered looking for the sunshine after the rain number that shows the fine harmonies to perfection.

Taking the pace up, Parker’s double bass gets the spotlight on the ‘Ride This Storm’, a number which suggests Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’ meeting The Be Good Tanyas’ ‘Littlest Birds’ before the album dives into melancholy for the metaphorical ‘Shelter The Light’, a memory of childhood and a father and his young son’s journey home after a hard day’s work number that builds to a big instrumental finale.

Routes ends back on a pastoral folksy note with ‘This Is Where I Belong’, a fingerpicked declaration of finding an anchor and a sense of self as he sings “I’ve come home to hold your hand, stand with you, this is where I belong”, an epiphany that perfectly captures the thread and warmth of the journey and the album.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.stylusboy.co.uk

‘Out On The Ocean’ – official video: