PHIL HARE – The Twilight Tone (March Hare Productions MHPCD01)

Twilight ToneThe Twilight Tone is something like Phil’s ninth album although many of his early recordings are now lost in the mists of antiquity. This record is entirely solo with no overdubs and according to Phil ought to played late at night. Actually, I’d like to think it was recorded then, probably in the company of a bottle of Bushmills.

I wasn’t taken with the opening track, ‘The Pound Man’, probably because I’d just come off reviewing two albums of blues. Phil uses the blues structure for a song about pound shops or the new breed of door-to-door sellers but for me it doesn’t work. There’s a point to be made in song here but not this song.

Phil is at his best with a more reflective style. ‘Catherine Conway’ is a beautiful song with a hint of Irish ballad about its tune and ‘Lady London’, a hymn to the capital, has more than a touch of Ralph McTell about it. It’s odd, though, given that Phil is from The Wirral but I guess that Greasby and Birkenhead don’t have the cachet that a songwriter is looking for. ‘The Day Thatcher Passed Away’ sounds remarkably even-handed at first listening and Phil is right in that it was a day that divided the country along partisan lines. ‘Benefit Street’, set to the tune of ‘Here’s The Tender Coming’, should be broadcast hourly on all channels. It won’t happen, of course.

Phil is a fine guitarist with a mastery of styles. The slide of the title track leads into the finger-picking of ‘Red-Headed Boy’ echoed in his own composition, ‘Planxty Byrne’ and, later, ‘Si Bheg Si Mor/Planxty Davis’. He even adapts the jazz piano of Horace Silver’s ‘The Preacher’ and the melodic pop of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.

If you try to analyze it, The Twilight Tone is a bit of mixed bag but I listened to it first while driving at night and Phil is right – that’s when it works best.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Pound Man’ live: