[Release date 02.05.14]
All the ingredients for a wider breakthrough are to be found in the second release by Swedish singer songwriter Buford Pope (aka Mikael Liljeborg) – raspy vocals reminiscent of a young Rod Stewart and pop/rock songs echoing the 1980s glory days of Bryan Adams and The Boss.
Something of an ‘occasional’ artist – his last release was his debut some 13 years ago – Sticks In The Throat is a throwback to simpler times and the era of Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty.
And while it could have been a great album, it’s let down by a couple of ingredients. Firstly, Pope’s vocals are buried disappointingly deep in the mix, and secondly the playing, while proficient, at times lacks empathy with the material. The drumming sounds Duracell-powered and an occasional absence of ‘feel’ fails to give some of the songs and vocals the required space to breathe.
But they’re minor quibbles – I assume that’s down to the employment of ‘hired hands’, and when the elements align as on the tantalizing hook of ‘She’s Got A Country Mouth’, the seductive ‘Love Affair’, the Southern steeped ‘I’ll Get Over That’, and the bluesy ‘What Will Your Mama Say’, there’s a irresistible swagger to the material.
Overall though, Sticks In The Throat is a signal of intent more than an irresistible calling card. Not dissimilar in many ways to the recent work of Tom Fuller, it’s a fine release, but equally perhaps something of a missed opportunity. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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