David Newey releases Unfold on December 18th with a solo launch event in Camden followed by a full band launch in Newcastle on December 22nd. Newey is …er… new to me but it’s easy to see why previous releases in 2009 and 2012 were well-received.
Unfold follows in the same style as the earlier albums Cities And Power and Work To Rule, a style I’d broadly describe as folk – but folk with great choruses and adorned at times with a band (Newey himself) that rocks. Take the second track ‘You Seem To Be So Cold’. The title tells you all you need to know about subject matter. The song builds from the opening “Cold and heartless is what you seem to be” first to the great hook of a refrain and then to the band kicking in in parallel with the multi-faceted image “You are colder than the lake in which my sorrows drown”. Listening to the song, I’m with the singer in full relationship-gone-bad-land “You are colder than the house I cannot afford to warm”. The music, though, turns this into a song to make yourself feel better rather than a self-pitying song to make yourself feel miserable.
‘Dark Times’ similarly has a great refrain and explores a serious subject – our personal responsibility to lift the dark times from us all: “For doing nothing you have the full weight of the crime…..a sickness is raging but you will not be seen/ Complaining and stammering and ruining the dream”. ‘You Are Not Yet Here’ rocks with the lightness of the Byrds; while the title track, ‘Unfold’, has a heavier rock base to it.
The overall feel, though, is folk not rock. Newey plays all the instruments on the album except for the accordion, which is played by his wife Shona. Though there is lively electric lead on occasion, the songs are underpinned by acoustic finger picking (have a listen to the acoustic solo in ‘Mary’, for example). In the video of ‘Shooting Star’ you can see the synergy between David Newey’s acoustic guitar and Shona’s accordion playing.
Throughout the album, the lyrics are mature, the voice of a social conscience which isn’t lost in anger. ‘It Would Be Nice To Be Like You’ is a song about the divide between those who have a more comfortable life and those who struggle to heat the house. Again, the singing voice has dignity to it, not complaint. It is the voice of a man wanting to let other people know that “There is no net/and it’s a long fall to the ground/It would be nice for you to see/To just spend a little time just trying to be me.”
I think the final track, ‘Stephen Leaves’, is my favourite. Like a dark comedy, it is gently played and builds slowly the tale of a man who has lost his job after thirty-five years, “a victim of constant downsizing”. It has a twist in the tale (the darkly comic bit) as we discover the revenge he has taken on the company he worked for. Finally it opens wide out into a condemnation of the modern economy “See this is what happens/If you downsize people/If your company roster/Is just a list of names/When those names get crossed off/By someone up on high/Someone must look/And say ‘this must change’ “
The album was inspired by the birth of David and Shona Newey’s new born son. It’s a great gift.
‘Shooting Star’ live: