Having released the second album with band project The Persecuted just a couple of months ago, East End-based singer-songwriter Johnny Black makes a swift return with Deluded, the fourth album alongside partner and fellow songsmith Emma Scarr. This time round, it’s Scarr taking the vocal spotlight on the majority of the tracks, kicking off with the harmonica-introed, pedal steel accompanied ‘Going Home’, a slow sway lament about a woman feeling a fish out of water after moving to the country and looking to return to the city.
As with all the material, it’s rooted in a mix of Americana and folk while ‘New Year’s Lament’, another dissatisfaction-themed number, is amore uptempo as, driven by scurrying percussion, mandolin and fiddle, with Darren Bundell on dobro, she sings about losing her job and her man, getting stick about her unruly kids, and the call to pack up and roam. Loping country waltzer ‘My Therapist Said’ is Black’s first lead, a tongue in cheek song about having to take responsibility for your life rather than blaming it on everyone else, but then it’s back to Scarr for ‘Dirty Coins’, a mandolin-led mid-tempo tale of two polar opposite sisters, a free spirit and one anchored to domesticity, each envious of the other, built around a melody and harmonica break with definite Dylan echoes.
‘Night Tube Home’ is one of Black’s playful but well-observed numbers, a skiffle-like account of the folk you meet travelling home on the tube, while striking an equally playful note, ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ is a mandolin and fiddle coloured socio-political list structured commentary with a catchy chorus line. Black also takes lead on ‘Carry Me Home’, a Slim Chance-like folk stomper about a woman’s journey home from shopping via a succession of bars and drinks with friends that has a more sobering point that may appear from its jauntiness. He also closes up the album in the London-Irish folksiness of ‘King of Rock n Roll’, a song about making a musical mark complete with a too rye oo rye ay refrain.
There’s only one duet this time round, ‘St, George’s Day’, a rather lovely and uplifting song about two ordinary, well-used, life-battered people meeting and fall in love, the remaining numbers all spotlighting Scarr. An alcohol companion piece to ‘Carry Me Home’ perhaps, ‘Another Beer ‘is a jogalong tale of a woman taking refuge from her insecurities and domestic drudgery in a glass or two with a fiddle line that vaguely echoes James’ ‘Sit Down’ chorus while, heading into honky tonk country ‘Can Of Worms’ is a cautionary tale of where boredom with your life can lead as it recounts an ill-advised adulterous affair and its consequences.
The remaining number, the harmonica and mandolin-accompanied ‘Mrs Average’, is another fine and poignant female perspective domestic drama about insecurity and unfulfilled promise, again mentioning booze and pills as a crutch as she sings how, faced with savage reality, “it’s time to let go of your dreams” and “embrace being normal my dear.”
The pair have built a solid reputation in and around their stomping ground, it would be nice to think that this album might finally provide a platform to allow them to travel a little further afield.
Artists’ website: http://www.18tilidie.com/
‘I’m Going Home’ live: