THE MINING CO. – Frontier (own label)

FrontierThe third album from London-based Irishman Michael Gallagher in as many years, he’s declared this as his romantic album, both in terms of songs and production. As such, Frontier starts off yearning and melancholic with the mid-tempo jog of the strings-washed ‘Mexico Alone’, a song inspired by his fear of flying and the dislocation it induces, exploring how the increasing connection brought about by social media ironically serves to fuel a sense of isolation.

Recorded in Andalucia, unsurprisingly there’s a Spanish feel at times, notably so on the moody introduction to the hushedly sung ‘Lost’ with its repeated rolling guitar pattern suddenly giving way to a slow, echoey vocal bridge as he sings about not knowing who trust. By contrast ‘Take Your Chances’ (“and row”) has an almost calypso vibe to its chorus, albeit counterpointed elsewhere with some twanging guitar while ‘Empty Row’, returning to his plane phobias, has a widescreen, string arrangement backdrop to his Bill Callahan-like crooning delivery reminiscent of Nilsson’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’.

Jesus Cabral Herrera’s upright bass and a keyboard drone sets the mood for the intimately sung minimalist title cut, as he purrs “come a little closer tonight” in a manner that’s either seductive or creepy.

Marking the mid-point ‘Hold On’, a song about photographs capturing past stories, has a Neil Young feel to it, the motif of memories leading to uptempo chug of ‘Promised Line’, a conjuration of his Co. Donegal childhood and recollections of the night Elvis died, Greg Holme’s pedal steel reinforcing its blurry Americana textures.

Heavy on the organ and with tinkling piano notes, the soulful yearning of ‘Broken Wing’ has an aching Wichita Lineman-like air about it while, by contrast, ‘Rollercoaster Kisses’ musically strays more towards the Mexican border with hints of Townes van Zandt.

I have to say neither ‘Honolulu Girl’ nor ‘River Of Fire’ did much for me, two bruised love songs fallen victim of overarrangement (also a flaw on his previous album) with distracting, pervasive keys , but it’s rescued in the final moment by ‘Diggin’ It All’, an acoustic Texas brisk shuffle in search of forgiveness and redemption on the back of a catchy chorus hook and handclaps. There’s times when less could have been more, but there’s more than enough here to encourage you to break for the border.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Mexico Alone’ – official video: