[Release date 03.04.14]
The second album from singer/songwriter Alister Atkin is inspired by the coast and maritime life of Nova Scotia. Overall, it’s a pleasant, almost beautiful offering, and plays to the strength of Atkin’s smooth, honeyed voice. Sometimes layered up in harmonies, sometimes carrying the melody alone, but always weaving stories of chance encounters, love and life.
That said, Atkin has put a fine band together since his debut and the sound is a folk-roots blend of ballads, jigs and reels. The album is lifted well above mediocrity by some subtle but important splashes of warm brass (Geoffrey Richardson and Annie Whitehead). The strong use of violin and accordion (Aiden Shepherd) on many of the album’s key tracks also gives this a different slant.
The sound of the sea pervades almost every track. Indeed shake the liner notes and a small pile of gritty salt appears on your CD player. Sometimes the accordion can give a faint sea-shanty feel too, particularly when the tempo is increased. ‘Seadogs’, one of the best tracks laid down here, is a case in point, though thankfully Shepherd remains just this side of Captain Pugwash-ness. ‘Why Can’t I’ – it’s not just the ‘ring of fire’ line that puts one in mind of Johnny Cash here – also cranks along with a similar energy and enthusiasm.
‘Jess’s Song’ album opener, benefits from some lush accordion and the interplay between that and the spiraling violin on ‘Shipping News’ is thrilling. That the sound would remind one of raggle-taggle gypsy-era Waterboys is no surprise and the choice to cover their ‘When You Go Away’ works frighteningly well. It is a spare rendition and is bled into rather beautifully from ‘The Lighthouse’, a violin weave of touch and class. The small eruption of hairs standing to attention on the back of my neck is testament to its power.
Not everything is of this high standard, but it’s a strong album overall. And it was thrown together in only a few days. Whilst there are a couple of areas that might have been sharpened up or ironed out with longer in the studio, there’s freshness and life here that seems more important. Good stuff. An engaging and in some ways surprising collection. ****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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