Fronted by Darren Hodson and featuring a roll call of the UK’s top session players as his backing band, while the name and the music might indeed suggest they hail from the American south, Hodson’s actually from Harrogate. Shine A Little Light is their third album (the second with just the band name) and really should see them move into the big leagues of homegrown Americana alongside the likes of Danny and the Champions of the World.
It opens in sterling form with the near six-minute ‘Billy’s Brother’, pulsing keys and drums joined by ringing guitars for a Springsteenesque blue collar story of a dysfunctional, imploding family, of the mother raising two rock n roll dreamer sons on her own, Billy going off the rails, a sibling fall out and a fatal car crash.
They switch style for the soulful, violin-stained piano ballad ‘Can I Get A Witness’, a hint of The Eagles to its can’t believe my luck lyrics, changing pace again for the pedal steel train time rhythm of ‘Songbird’, a song – and words of wisdom – written for his daughter starting school. On a linked note, the mid-tempo ‘Already Gone’ with its surging chorus is a familiar song about a musician’s life on the road, living out of a suitcase, while missing his family back home.
Their stripped down acoustic aside is showcased with the alcohol-themed ‘Few Too Many Hours’ while the five-minute ‘Lie To Me’ plays the big building Southern country soul card, complete with the scorching guitar solo and swayalong chorus. For me, other than the opener, the standout track has to be the pedal steel lined ‘Great American Mistake’ with its cosmic country shades, although ‘And In The End’ is an object lesson on how to write a song about dividing up friends after a break-up in just 56 seconds.
Ending with the steady drum beat, strummed, optimistic ‘Last Rays Of The Sun’, this is luminous.
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Artists’ website: www.thesoutherncompanion.com
‘Can I Get A Witness’ – live: