THE SILVER DARLINGS – Something Of The Sound (Anklebreka Records AR0017)

Something Of The SoundSomething Of The Sound is the second album released by The Silver Darlings, following the Souls in 2011. The band are from Sheffield and have undergone various changes (having originally been more of a loose co-operative). At its heart, and the band’s songwriter, is Andy Whitehouse. Since 2016 The Silver Darlings have had a more settled line-up and this has led to Something Of The Sound, consisting of one traditional song and eight of Whitehouse’s songs.

Whitehouse has described himself in interview as “really interested in….the human capacity for optimism. It keeps us pushing on and that’s what it’s about really”. Appropriately enough, then, the album opens with ‘Almost Home’, which works both as a description of life on a returning steam ship but also metaphorically – for example in the image here of storm or safety: “it is hard to tell if that ahead is cloud or land”. There’s a down-to-earthness as well – more effective than prayers will be to touch the rail and feel the vibrations of the ship’s engines consequent on the efforts of those shoveling the coal: “Keeps the fire burning in the soul./See us safe to harbour/never more to roam/We’re almost home”.

The title track which follows is much rockier, a song about former lovers “You will never know how many hands have touched me/Some left only fingerprints, some others scars, but in their way they knew me” and asking the new lover to take him in their arms “I know you love me for my wounds”. The sounds of their future together will carry “something of the sound of how they came” (that really is the, unlaboured, lyric) “and how they went away”.

The album continues with these two styles – some gentler, some rockier. To my ear, the slower tracks have a late 60’s/early 70’s music-of-the-counter-culture style somewhere in there. The slow/fast intonation and high percussion of ‘Goldfish Girl’; the grizzled voice and backing vocals on ‘What Happened Next’; the late-night sound of ‘Cherry Blossom’ all reflect the slower, moodier style. By contrast, ‘Thrown’ and ‘Star Of The County Down’ are more upbeat – the latter song having a tempo and a lively electric lead guitar to make The Pogues’ version sound timid.

I’ve found this to be a slow-burning album, the more I’ve listened the more I like it. I’m not sure where it sits, though. It’s quite a way from traditional folk (have a look on YouTube for ‘Tinsley Tunes 1: Drunken Sailor’ if you want to see Andy Whitehouse playing solo and acoustically), but that (probably) doesn’t matter. Something Of The Sound fuses folk, jazz, rock influences into Whitehouse’s songs and the more settled line-up has a deservedly growing reputation. The band will be playing gigs later in 2018 and if they capture the feel of the album in the live performances they will be well worth going to see.

Mike Wistow

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