Mostly Autumn Records [Release date 02.06.14]
Mostly Autumn have been known throughout their career as a Celtic/folk infused prog-lite sort of band.
Their albums, right from the early days were always very good, sometimes excellent, but, it must be said, somewhat overly predictable and risk-averse – which never sits well with your average prog fan and hence their rather mixed reputation within the genre’s cognoscenti.
But things are about to change.
It is often said that music has the capacity both to lift the soul and to induce gut-wrenching emotion, but it is very rare that these two combine within one piece of work.
Step forward ‘Dressed In Voices’, Bryan Josh and Co.’s eleventh studio album, which has elevated the band to a new level and revealed a side to them that hitherto has been rarely seen.
The album is a concept based around the cold-blooded murder of an ordinary guy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and challenging the murderer to see what he has taken away - both the life before the bullet and the subsequent life of which the victim has been deprived.
It’s a dark theme and apparently Josh questioned himself continually during the writing process as to whether the subject matter was just too bleak.
But this is what risk-taking is all about, and the result an absolutely stunning piece of work that cajoles every emotion from the listener – from the abject horror of the act itself (‘Saturday Night’ and ‘The Last Day’) to the joys of an ordinary life (‘Down By The River’ and ‘House On The Hill’) right through to the lump-in-the-throat raw emotion of ‘Home’ and ‘Box Of Tears’.
The music throughout is astounding and the libretto so apposite and so sensitive to the story it would bring tears to even the hardest of souls.
In addition, this is the album where Mostly Autumn have finally come together as a band in its truest meaning – Josh’s guitar playing has never sounded better, Iain Jennings’ keyboard wizardry has been given due prominence at last and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh has finally stepped out of the shadow of (former vocalist) Heather Findlay – to startling effect.
No less are the exceptional passages of slide guitar from Liam Davidson and the more than dependable bass of Andy Smith.
Add in the off-the-wall drumming of Alex Cromarty and a few guest appearances from the likes of Anne-Marie Helder, Troy Donockley (inevitably) and B J Cole and the whole thing just comes together beautifully.
‘Dressed In Voices’ is without doubt Mostly Autumn’s finest hour.
It’s an emotional ride with dark and brooding passages around every corner, but it’s also an exquisite and uplifting set of songs that are both musically sublime and good for the soul – a difficult trick to pull off, but achieved with panache.
Breathtakingly good. *****
Review by Alan Jones
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