In February 2019 Pete Feenstra chatted to Del Bromham for his Feature show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, playing tracks from ‘White Feather’.
Estoteric Antenna [Release date 12.10.18]
After a 50 odd year career, ‘White Feather’ finally reveals who Del Bromham really is musically.
It would be wrong to call ‘White Feather’ the missing Beatles album, it is too personal and diverse for that. But there are several undeniable moments when Bromham relishes that connection.
Firstly there’s the catalytic role of his producer Jamie Masters – who he calls his own George Martin. Then there’s the George Harrison style sitar and Eastern guitar tones on the lovely psychedelic period piece ‘Life’ and moments of intricate detail such as The Fab 4 style bv’s and strong melody of ‘My House’.
Finally there’s an overt John Lennon connection of the sublime title track, which melds an ‘Imagine’ era piano intro with a poignant hook: “White feather’s gonna fall, send a message to us all.” The guitar tone and vocal could be from Lennon’s 1974’s ‘Walls & Bridges’ album, all neatly underpinned by a Ringoesque percussive stutter on the hook.
If the Beatles are the main inspiration there’s also fleeting flashes of the Stones on the riff driven ‘Let It Go’ as the band rocks out with Stonesy whoo hoo’s and a call and response section. And to round off the influences there’s a Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull (think Paul Buckmaster) style stringed accompaniment on the slow building, barn storming mid-part of ‘Land Of The Free, as Del relates the moral indignation felt by Nat Turner, as part of the slave uprising documented in the ‘Birth Of A Nation’ movie.
All that said, the above is a musical backdrop to a dozen personal songs that showcase the Stray front man’s real songwriting forte.
‘White Feather’ is both adventurous and brave in its wide musical scope. It shifts from the unlikely, but highly catchy disco fuelled opening of the wonderful ‘Let’s Get Get This Show Started’ – the music being in sharp contrast to weighty lyrics about love and loss – through to the more familiar rock fare of tracks like ‘Champagne’. The latter is a sister track to the pounding guitar and organ riff driven ‘Monkey’.
Curiously given Bromham’s rock background, those two tracks are not representative of an album as a whole, which is full of heartfelt lyrics, polished melodies and unexpected musical forays such as the Latino feel of ‘Wicked Man’, on which he examines his karma.
There’s also room for the melodic ‘Paradise’ which sounds like a Nick Lowe era Brinsley Schwarz meeting The Hollies harmonies full on.
Above all, ‘White Feather’ has a composite feel as each track feels like a musical chapter. There’s plenty of diversity, but it’s all part of a coherent whole that for the most part has a reflective feel.
Even a track like ‘Genevieve’ – a central character in a children’s story that Del started but never finished – owes its place on this album due to the fact it was originally written in the 60’s. The contrast between the lattice of jangling guitars and sudden weighty organ and guitar parts keeps the song musically interesting.
The album strikes a nuanced equilibrium comprising lyrical self evaluation and musical flow, on songs shot through with honesty, integrity, poignancy, but also exuberance and always great guitar work.
‘White Feather’ isn’t quite a masterpiece, but its damn close. There’s something here for all shades of Bromham fans, from hard rock, a salient pop sensibility and a blues heart, while for the die-hard Stray fans tracks like ‘Champagne’, update his rock credentials in the company of an essential rap from one Long John. The two singers coalesce brilliantly on a mirthful hook: “You’ve got champagne taste, but beer money.”
‘White Feather’ is arguably the kind of album Del Bromham could only have made as an experienced songwriter in the autumn of his career and he’s revels in the creative opportunity it affords him in a belated major step-up in his solo career. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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