Mark Chadwick’s second solo album won’t disappoint fans but it may surprise one or two. It’s simple, direct and confessional and I enjoyed it from the off.
The sound is pared-down a little, based on acoustic guitar with Tom White’s piano and Ben Paley’s fiddle over the engine room of Graeme Ross and Alex White on double bass and drums. At first hearing I thought that ‘Christian And Pam’ was the key song. It’s the story of two, what shall we say, less privileged members of our society in a long-standing but rickety relationship that you just know isn’t going to end well. The last verse describes Christian being taken away in an ambulance covered in blood ‘the way Pam knew he would’. Mark describes the album as “an honest look at drink, life and love”. Nowhere will you read that he is an alcoholic but his relationship with the booze is a troubled one. ‘Waterfall’ is almost a song of praise for the drink, albeit a bitter one – ‘drinking makes the man, watch him crawl, watch him crawl’ – while ‘Bullet’ and ‘Killing Time’ are stories seemingly seen through a haze – you can put your own interpretation on them and I’m still working on mine.
‘Air’ is musically the most complex song with piano and fiddle heading into jazz territory while the closing ‘Last Night’ relates the insomniac’s early morning reflections on the night before. Some of these words are set to good, stomping tunes and I can hear the choruses of ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Bullet’ ringing out across a festival field from voices that haven’t fully understood what it is they’re singing. The duality of the music is reflected in the cover but that’s as much an illustration of the duality of human nature, particularly when the demons are released.
Not only is this a good album to listen to on the superficial level – you’ll find yourself singing along – but it also makes some difficult points in a readily accessible way.
Artists’ website: http://www.levellers.co.uk/
‘Red Sky’, taken from the album, was Mark’s Record Store Day single: