Quick plays: ROBBY HECHT, DAVID BERKELEY, PETER MULVEY, DAMIEN DEMPSEY

Robby Hecht

ROBBY HECHT Robby Hecht (Old Man Henry Records) [Release date 24.03.14]
DAVID BERKELEY The Fire In My Head (Straw Man Music) [Release date 17.03.14]

I’ve brigaded these two singer songwriter’s releases together, not just because they’ll be touring the UK and Europe this summer under the banner of ‘The New American Troubadours’, but because they’re two peas out of the same pod – different ends of the pod perhaps – and if you like one, you’ll almost certainly like the other.

And that pod is the low key, inoffensive, easy on the ear balladry of the likes of David Gray.  Robby Hecht is definitely out of that mould – his soft warm vocals floating over a mixture of shimmering acoustic guitars, an understated rhythm section and mild flourishes of fiddle, horns, piano and sax.  Produced in Nashville by Lex Price (Mindy Smith, k.d. Lang) it echoes back to the 70′s sound of Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and the like.  ***

In mild contrast, David Berkeley errs to the Damien Rice end of a short spectrum.  His vocals have hints of Donovan with his doleful baritone and vulnerable falsetto, while his sparse musical poetry is underpinned by the stripped back accompaniment of finger picked guitars and banjo.  ***

Both releases are awash with melancholy and melody.  It might not amount to a raucous knees up, but if you fancy quiet reflection and contemplation, a date on The New American Troubadour tour could be order.

Review by Pete Whalley

PETER MULVEY Silver Ladder (Signature Sounds) [Release date 31.03.14]

With his gnarled, gravelled vocals is hard to say whether veteran US songwriter Peter Mulvey wants to be a bluesman, or a rock and roller on this eclectic release.  Perhaps both.

A veteran of 20 years on the American indie folk / rock scene and Silver Ladder is his first record made of entirely new songs in eight years, with a change of direction fuelled by producer Chuck Prophet and the backing band he assembled – drummer David Kemper (Bob Dylan), Tom Freund (Ben Harper) on upright bass, Chuck and his Mission Express guitarist James DePrato on guitars and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) supplying touches of harmony vocals and violin.

A lean, muscular collection it shifts effortlessly from Van Morrison to The Rolling Stones, but the highlights are gritty opener ‘Lies You Forgot You Told’, the broody ‘What Else Was It’, the starkly beautiful ‘Trempealeau’, and fragile duet ‘Where Did You Go’ with Anita Suhanin.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

DAMIEN DEMPSEY It’s All Good (The Best Of Damien Dempsey)

While probably an unfamiliar name to most, Dubliner Damien ‘Damo’ Dempsey is part of a bloodline of classy Irish singer songwriters that includes the likes of Christy Moore and Paul Brady.  Mixing social commentary with songs containing with subtle traditional Celtic imagery, he’s part of an exclusive band of artists that nudge against, but never quite cross over into the mainstream.

With six studio albums under his belt dating back to ‘They Don’t Teach This Shit In School’ in 2000, Damo’s no ‘young blood’ and is a well-established part of the Irish music scene scene having attracted acclaim from within the industry and the press and with six Meteor Music Awards under his belt.   There are themes of injustice, longing and loss, of heartache and hope, and despair – delivered with a passion that paints vivid, and at times uncomfortable pictures of life on the working class streets of Dublin’s Northside.

With fans including Brian Eno, Sinéad O’Connor, Morrissey and U2, Dempsey tells it as he sees it, and he pulls no punches on this budget priced 29 track ‘best of’.  As with all ‘serious’ artists, Dempsey is likely to divide opinion, but there’s plenty here to admire – your appetite for it will depend, in part, of whether you’re looking for stimulation or escapism.

Fans will no doubt bemoan the inclusion of just two new tracks, but for the uninitiated ‘It’s All Good’ is tremendous value for money.  Personally, I’d have like a little by way of information about the tracklisting and credits, but at the price you really can’t grumble.  Either way, ‘Almighty Love’ is quality piece work.  Powerful stuff.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley

NINA PERSSON Animal Heart [Release date 10.02.14]

Arguably the ex-Cardigan’s first solo album (her previous outings having been under the A Camp branding and having been heavily influenced by the producers / personnel involved) Animal Heart finds Nina Persson in fine fettle.

Self-written and produced by Nina (along with her husband film composer & novelist Nathan Larson) Persson claims to have followed her instincts with this release and for those who enjoyed her distinctive vocals and the pop sensibilities of The Cardigans, Animal Heart won’t disappoint.

It’s a supremely consistent set that where the more upbeat numbers occupy the same space as say Lana Del Rey, but without the iconic American 1950′s lyrical imagery.  That’s balanced out nicely by a range of more reflective and melancholy songs.

Persson’s wonderful breathy vocals are the focal point and mixed well up, and cherry pick at random on your mp3 player and each track is a tasty morsel.  If there’s a complaint, it’s that there’s no clear standout material and as an ‘end to end’ listen it Animal Heart can be a little difficult to digest.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)



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