EWAN MACFARLANE – Milk (Royale Stag Records)

MilkEwan MacFarlane’s Milk is a brilliant soul-roots rock album which showcases EM’s honeyed asteroid vocals and clever songwriting. This record is a long-playing love letter to his wife Jo, and is brimful with (Thank you, John Martyn!) ample “grace and danger”.

The title track, ‘Milk’, begins with a gritty guitar riff, and Ewan’s vocals carve a melodic hook into those always welcoming brain synapses. He sings, “Yes, yes, I fancy you”. This sets the thematic romantic compass for the rest of the record. And there’s a hypnotic guitar solo, with a tough drum and bass engine room, and a gentle piano that floats through the tune.

Then, ‘Deep Heavy Notation’ continues the infectious groove. Odd – Ewan’s vocals can conjure colours from a palette that includes such diversity as folk singer-songwriter guy Neil Diamond, Ziggy Starman David Bowie, John Lennon, and (perhaps) Mike Scott of The Waterboys. This is roots rock that floats in a raft inflated with classic rock rarified air.

Ditto for ‘Love & The Lonely’ that namechecks “Ziggy from Mars” and continues with the Neil Diamond vocal glance. The same is true for ‘How To Build An Empire’, that quite simply, jumps for joy. Now to that (potentially unhip) Neil Diamond reference: It’s important to note that despite a few shmaltzy Christmas albums here and there, Neil propelled the very early New York Brill Building back-alley folk sound of ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, and ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’.

It’s just an idea, but this album carries the humanity of Neil’s tune, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ [actually written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell – ed] in its melodic soulful memory.

That’s a salient load.

That said, there is more great songwriting. ‘When Al Green Sings’ is a throbbing ode to the master who was able to “take” anyone “to the river”. And ‘Your Man, Your Muscle & Your Minder’, perhaps, gets into Van Morrison soulful territory that always stops Greenwich time. Then, the pulsive rock of ‘Stop Talkin’ rumbles and rocks like an endlessly poignant John Lennon punch of a song. And ‘Won’t Stop Burnin’’ travels a Bruce Springsteen-road map, and could be a big commercial hit, without the worry of sellout sweat.

But ‘Tangled’ returns the record’s revolution back into the earthly cultivated soil grove. The tune swirls with passion and yet another big drama slow-danced melody with a hypnotic guitar solo.

The next two songs continue with the thematic prayer to love. ‘An On’ has a quick tempo and a roots-rock feel that echoes more of Bruce Springsteen in his more anthemic big chorus moments. Then, the album ends with two tunes recorded live at a Chem 19 performance on 04-08-2022. ‘Never Forever’ is “soul deep” (Thank you Alex Chilton and his Box Tops!) and certainly has a similar hopeful desperation of Bowie’s ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, with a nice coda which is piano driven and melts in the soft wax of quite naked and very human emotions. And the final song, ‘Obstacles And Incidents’ urges us all to “Come on, surrender, do not be afraid” because “We all need to be saved”.  

Milk is Ewan’s sealed envelope with an intense personal devoted passion to his wife. But it’s also an open (sometimes) falsetto letter with raw human art that sings, like a honeyed asteroid in any darkened universe, with a long-playing ode to a “Deep Heavy Notion” of love that, thankfully (and forever never!), “Won’t Stop Burnin’”.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: https://ewanmacfarlanemusic.com/

‘Won’t Stop Burnin” – official video: