Dan Sumner’s Ebb And Flow, like the best music of (the very great) John Martyn, touches sublime thoughts and then makes them intensely human. There’s plenty of “grace and danger” in these grooves in which rock, blues, and folk spin in a melodic eddy of circular sound.
The first two songs are really quite different from the rest on the album. ‘Let The Light In’ is a smooth production with drums, keyboards, electric guitar, and Dan’s emotive and soulful vocals. To tell the truth, the tune recalls Ricky Ross and Deacon Blue’s first album, Raintown. (That’s a big complement!) And, to keep the John Martyn ethos alive, the song conjures JM’s mid-period records like Sunday’s Child, Glorious Fool, and Well Kept Secret, where great melodies were surrounded by a band ensemble sound. The same is true for ‘Out Of Reach’, with its soulful plea of “Love is tough, but is it tough enough?”. There’s a nice violin bit that underpins the tune. Both songs ooze with dramatic rock tension.
But then things get much more eclectic. (That, too, is a complement!) An acoustic guitar is strummed with a very different vibe, and ‘Raise A Glass’ is simple, melodic, and just a hell of a lot of fun. There’s sweeping guitar and violin vibe that sustain a Baroque folk beauty. That (sort of) rekindles the sound of Nick Garrie’s classic The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas. So, yeah, this record gets into the rarified air of psych folk.
Then things get even more interesting. ‘Electric Light’ is stripped down to the essential folk elemental music that, with its Eastern vibe and eerie electric guitar, is stunningly human—human with a ton of weird psych insight—and with a mantra chaser. Odd: (for those who care) this tune conjures the aged hand-tossed textured scroll of (my beloved) Jade Warrior during their Glen Harvard vocals and short acoustic song Vertigo period. This is a sound that’s light years away from the initial big production songs, and despite its aberrant construct, it’s a weird thing of beauty and (sort of, again!) makes time stand still. And the up-beat ‘You Were The Best Thing About Today’ is a brief (under two minutes) love letter with more airy Eastern vibe, and contains the nice line “We’ll jump puddles in the rain/Look for bears in the rocks and caves”. The song bounces with joy.
Oh my! It’s said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, ‘Kings Of Our Own Domain’ is a straight line to the soul of (the before-mentioned) John Martyn, and specifically, his tune ‘May You Never’ with its brisk and melodic acoustic guitar and pleading vocal. And there’s a big electric guitar solo to boot. If it’s meant as a tribute, well, it’s a really nice way to say thank you to our “Johnny Too Bad” who told us all, “Love is the lesson to learn in our time”. This is a pleasant rush of a tune.
Odd (again!): ‘All Those Ghosts’ is deep and mystical, with an (almost) ritual chant that begs for “all the ghosts that lurk in the dark/Come to the surface and let me see who you are”. This is an acoustic incantation, and sounds like some weird unreleased Richard Thompson song sung from any “dark end of the street”.
The final two songs juxtapose the contraries of Ebb And Flow. ‘Learning To Mind’ is a full-blown ode to “The Glory Of Love”, and it spins with the passionate momentum of Bruce Springsteen’s emotional wide open (albeit acoustic) cylinders that will always be “born to run”. And then ‘Kite’ slows everything with a passionate vocal, plucked acoustic guitar, and sympathetic violin that sings some sort of psalm that thanks the “the stars and the jet- black night” because “Love is here and it’s here to stay”. This is a warm mittened song worthy a cold winter night.
Truly, Ebb And Flow conjures the magic of the singer-songwriters of the 70’s. Sure, there’s “grace” and there’s “danger’; but the songs also bleed with all the those sublime thoughts and melodies that sing to the soul and will always vibrate the vinyl grooves in the music of humanity’s “head and heart”.
Artist’s website: https://dansumner.co.uk
‘Kings Of Our Domain’ – official video: