ALEX SEEL –Spell On A Tin Drum (own label)

Spell On A Tin DrumMostly written in a caravan on the west coast of Ireland and recorded under his bed in London, Seel’s softly sung second album often resonates with that sense of intimacy and seclusion while also showcasing his virtuoso guitar work. The album sets out the latter’s stall with the slow waltzing ‘Take This Guitar’, basically an ode to his six string, the paths they’ve travelled and the stories they’ve told, augmented by Toni Geiling’s violin and viola. His friskier, bluesy ragtime chops are in evidence on the subsequent rhythmically choppy ‘Eyes Wider Than’.

The pace falls back for the spare, reflective ‘Practical Mind’ (“still seeking love while fencing off the garden”), Tom White bringing a New Orleans trombone feel to the slow walk rhythms of the break-up number ‘Grass Is Greener’ while the ethereal atmosphere of the floatingly dreamy ‘Blue Sky In Our Hands’ suggests a folksy Pink Floyd.

Fingerpicked with a medieval troubadour feel, ‘The River’ is another introspective stripped back number about the passage of time, shuffling into the vaguely bluesy drifting manner of ‘Before The Sun Goes Down’ with its hint of distorted electric guitar, the final song being the strummed 60s flavoured waltzing ‘Satellites’, an enduring love song given an apocalyptic 21st century twist in lines like “When all our data has been hacked by/Some kid in a basement with mud in his eye/Well I’ll still be loving you” that manages to squeeze the words oligarch and megalomaniac into the same line.

It ends with a calmed, meditative instrumental, ‘Quietus’, with its Jansch and Renbourn echoes, sustaining the album’s relaxed, low key warmth to the final notes, a spell well cast.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.alexseel.com

‘Grass Is Greener’ – official video:

MARK CHADWICK – Moment (On The Fiddle OTFCD020)

MomentMark Chadwick’s second solo album won’t disappoint fans but it may surprise one or two. It’s simple, direct and confessional and I enjoyed it from the off.

The sound is pared-down a little, based on acoustic guitar with Tom White’s piano and Ben Paley’s fiddle over the engine room of Graeme Ross and Alex White on double bass and drums. At first hearing I thought that ‘Christian And Pam’ was the key song. It’s the story of two, what shall we say, less privileged members of our society in a long-standing but rickety relationship that you just know isn’t going to end well. The last verse describes Christian being taken away in an ambulance covered in blood ‘the way Pam knew he would’. Mark describes the album as “an honest look at drink, life and love”. Nowhere will you read that he is an alcoholic but his relationship with the booze is a troubled one. ‘Waterfall’ is almost a song of praise for the drink, albeit a bitter one – ‘drinking makes the man, watch him crawl, watch him crawl’ – while ‘Bullet’ and ‘Killing Time’ are stories seemingly seen through a haze – you can put your own interpretation on them and I’m still working on mine.

‘Air’ is musically the most complex song with piano and fiddle heading into jazz territory while the closing ‘Last Night’ relates the insomniac’s early morning reflections on the night before. Some of these words are set to good, stomping tunes and I can hear the choruses of ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Bullet’ ringing out across a festival field from voices that haven’t fully understood what it is they’re singing. The duality of the music is reflected in the cover but that’s as much an illustration of the duality of human nature, particularly when the demons are released.

Not only is this a good album to listen to on the superficial level – you’ll find yourself singing along – but it also makes some difficult points in a readily accessible way.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://www.levellers.co.uk/

‘Red Sky’, taken from the album, was Mark’s Record Store Day single: