Joana Serrat released her fifth album on June 23rd. Serrat is a Catalonian singer-songwriter and she has combined with Northern-Irish singer-songwriter Matthew McDaid and two other Catalonians, Roger Usart and Victor Partido. The band, the album and one of the tracks are all called Riders Of The Canyon. When you listen to it, it will, quite simply, make you feel good.
I make the point about the background and the quality of this album because there can be an Anglo-American tendency to dismiss European music as the kind of light stuff that we hear on summer holidays. You only have to spend time in any of the European countries to realise there is a whole wealth of modern music, only partly dependent on Anglo-American traditions, which is very good, transcending and adapting from a wide range of influences. Riders Of The Storm is that kind of album.
If I were to name a genre, I’d suggest its country-folk-rock. The up-tempo opening track, ‘Master Of My Lonely Time’, hits you within half a second with a raised volume, a driving rhythm section, a grand guitar riff, and Serrat’s lovely vocal – part power, part vulnerable. ‘Dirty Water’ continues the ‘grab you by the throat’ style of the opener; it’s written by Serrat but sung by McDaid, the coherence of the band adding to the strength and range of the ten songs.
The mood slows, more thoughtful in the next two tracks – ‘Here In My Dreams’ and ‘Everything Blooms in Spring’ – before lifting us again with the acoustic gem of ‘Downtown’ – references to the styles of The Byrds, The Travelling Wilbury’s give a further sense of the band’s influences.
The title track, ‘Riders Of The Canyon’ is drawn from American Western/Cowboy traditions, Serrat’s vocal again hauntingly powerful, this time against a simply strummed guitar and a pedal steel at the start before building to a much fuller movie-score sound. ‘Wild River’, perhaps more Carter Family than lonesome cowboy, nonetheless taps into a similar genre.
‘Sunrising’ and ‘Some Kinda Addiction’ return us to the style of earlier track, Serrat’s vocal decorated with up-tempo rhythm section and grabbing lead guitar. The album finishes with ‘Sorrow Song’, gentle melodic and a perfect closer, Usart’s deep vocal building to a final couplet “Will they ever remember them/Bring flowers to where they kneel” and an orchestral conclusion.
Folk? Rock? Country? European? Dunno – but it’s beautifully written and pulled together. Each time I play the album, I pick out something new to interest me; I can’t find dates of any planned gigs, but this album really does deserve a wide hearing.
‘Master Of My Lonely Time: