Produced by and featuring Chris Pepper (percussion) and Boo Hewerdine (guitar, keys), normally to be found fronting The Phil Langran Band, here the Oxford singer-songwriter steps out in solo frame with Aaron Catlow on fiddle, cellist Pete Harvey and Gustaf Ljunggren on acoustic slide.
It’s a mellow, laid back affair, reflective and softly melancholic as he explores the pressures of encroaching time when confronting isolation and a world struggling to survive, opening with the cello-accompanied ‘Repair The Light’ about finding time and a place (“A safe retreat/To light the dark”) to heal. Walking a slow handclap tribal rhythm the bluesy ‘You Can’t Go Back’ with its Dylan reference (“Old rolling stone singing blood on the tracks”) basically says don’t live with regrets of things you can’t change before falling back into more relaxed mode for, the fingerpicked sway of ‘Love On The Line’ and “songs about falling in love/Songs about loving and leaving”. ‘This Day’ is another fingerpicked tune about being chill and going with the flow and letting life’s river run its course and that “In God’s good time a pastel dawn/Is waiting in the wings”.
Nothing musically breaks a sweat and the lyrics generally concern time passing and making the most of what we have, such as on the fiddle-backed ‘Longshore Drift’ (which has a hint of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’) and, more handclap percussion and keys, ‘The Way’ (“The way is love/The night is long/The sky above/The life below/The book you read/The sound of snow/The life you lead/The life you know”).
Love and relationships are an integral part of proceedings, captured here on the fingerpicked loveliness of ‘Shiloh’ , the simple folksy ‘A Walking Song’ (“All these roads I walk, I would walk with you/Though I wander away in my thinking/And I’d follow you close, wherever you go/If you’d lean out when I’m sinking”) and the (perhaps ghost-tale) vignette ‘Alice Wynter’ (“He called her name, Alice Wynter/She walked the miles, the home-sick shore/He stood his ground through summer lightning/Above the shore”).
It ends with, first, ‘For A Song’, the line “The poor breaker’s yard that once was my heart” perhaps echoing W.B.Yeats in the yearning for “ a song/(To) carry me home” as “The choir takes wing on invisible strings/And love finds its way to the door”, followed by the wistful, gentle harmonium waltzing ‘A Kitchen Window’, another number about the passing of the hours and of life as “blue notes turn to grey… trusting to the days/From inner dark to outer space/Beyond the patterned pane/To soon forget the snap of frost/The state of grace and mind”, with life poetically if somewhat melancholically summed up as “Another broken pane/A kitchen window day”.
Back on fiddle and cello, it ends on ‘Dunmanus Bay’, a snapshot of the area in County Cork, Ireland, evoking the great Irish famine, “now that the seas run dry and a hunger grips the land”, and those who fled their native shores, whose “songs of leaving catch the breeze across Dunmanus Bay” and prompting a reflective, downcast reverie in the narrator about how “I was ever the dreaming kind in my hopes of breaking free/And I courted grand illusions, and sailed them out to sea/But the breakers heard my foolish words and swept my dreams away/And left me here dissatisfied beside Dunmanus Bay”.
The emotional mood generally at odds with the tranquillity of the music, it’s not lyrically always a positive experience, but Langran’s warm, grained voice and the gentle waves of the melodies make it an engaging listen.
Artist’s website: www.phillangranband.com
‘You Can’t Go Back’ – live in lockdown;