Album review: CONNOR SELBY – Made Up My Mind

CONNOR SELBY – Made Up My Mind

3Ms Records [Release date 07.09.18]

With a soulful wash of blues, r&b, funk and nascent songcraft, Connor Selby works hard to pull together an album that slowly, but surely unveils his own imprint

He’s a white boy soul singer with blues on his mind. At times when his vocals are the centre of attention he’s almost circumspect, but his guitar solo’s unveil a completely different and more confident voice.

He’s a singer who connects emotionally with his lyrics and uncovers further depth with his guitar tone and phrasing.

With the exception of the short, sharp funky rocker ‘See It Through’ (complete with a piecing guitar tone) the album enjoys a slow build as his world weary voice and tonal variety shapes the songs to great effect.

He’s an erudite songwriter who draws on soulful influences such as Van Morrison and Ray Charles, while his confident guitar playing is built on fluid runs and a resonant tone.

He rarely wastes a word or note, on songs that head for outro once the message has been delivered.

His label 3Ms Music originally issued a 3 track sampler which confirmed his ability as a songwriter and recording artist to match his exciting live shows.

The combination of an up and coming artist and a label that gives him artistic freedom will serve both parties well.

‘Made Up My Mind’ isn’t without blemishes. ‘ Help Me’ for example, has an awkward middle section, while the opening sumptuous touch, tone and vibrato of ‘Tired Of Wasting My Time’ lacks the kind of gravitas in his phrasing that only experience can bring.

However, the title track and closing brace of songs linger long after the final note.

The above two near misses are counter-weighted by the funky blues of ‘This Old World’, on which Selby’s clarity of diction and pleasing timbre is further boosted by a resolving guitar solo that speaks volumes about his ability.

There’s also an undeniable emotional weight to his songs, especially on the penultimate ‘You Hurt Me’ on which he evokes Peter Green. A combination of his deep guitar tone and heartfelt vocals allied with his band’s intuitive interplay on the exclamatory hook, suggests an artist who is close to nailing his own style.

Better still, is the way the album builds to its understated, but captivating finish on ‘Sure As The Sunrise’.  A Joe Cocker style organ intro and Selby’s world-weary voice colours a song full of space, cool dynamics and feel.

They say a slow blues is always good barometer of both a singer and a song and Selby shows a real maturity as he leans into a track with Gregg Allman undertones, with real feel, a weepy tone and understated confidence.

The album’s slow build works because we are already dialled into his guitar playing ability, as evidenced by the opening solo on the beguiling title track.

He toughens up his tone on a sub-funk rocker ‘That’s Alright’. The staggered rhythm isn’t quite matched by an imposing vocal, but he settles instead for slow interwoven guitar parts which belatedly catch fire on a tension busting note release. The solo has a younger Clapton like intensity that will surely translate into some future show stopping moments.

‘Made Up My Mind’ is a well sequenced album that glues together Connor Selby’s soulful phrasing with rock tinged intensity.

There’s still has room to smooth out the edges, eschew moments of circumspection and find room for more confident phrasing,  but Selby is a good songwriter with an expressive voice and a guitarist whose solos reveal an inner voice.

And it’s that fleetingly glimpsed latter aspect that will surely take him far. Watch this space. ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

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