Self Release [Release date 24.04.20]
Richard Townsend’s ‘Ticket To Memphis’ is another impressive release from a singer song writer and band leader with a world view.
That said, ‘Ticket To Memphis’ isn’t quite what it appears to be. Firstly, it’s really his own solo album rather than a full band outing. The title may read The Mighty Bosscats, but the songs are very personal and can only belong to him.
Secondly, given the bluesy, country, and vaguely funky feel, Ticket To Memphis could easily be pigeonholed at Americana, except it’s not.
It’s a singer songwriter’ album in the folk tradition. He’s a story teller whose songs sometimes draw on his road trips in America, not to mention Moscow!
And having initially deconstructed the album, I would also add that it’s a fine piece of work, but in need of an experienced producer who might encourage Richard to attack songs in different ways.
As it is, he settles for different musical arrangements to provide contrast and dynamics, which is fine, except that he sticks fairly rigidly to the mid-tempo format which lessons his overall impact.
He opens in Mark Knopfler mode on the title track, which suits his story telling well. His strength is lies in voicing universal feelings, be they the poignant dementia song ‘Remember’ – framed by judicious use of strings and lovely bv’s – or his ruminations on mortality called ‘Hello My Friend’.
He’s the voice of the ordinary man, who spins his thoughtful tales with a lovely interwoven musical accompaniment.
This is especially so on ‘Homeward Bound’, as he shares one of those small, but well understood things in life, that it’s good to be home.
It has a lovely relaxed feel, with a whispered vocal over Glen Buck’s shuffled brush strokes, while the sudden uplifting chorus defines the song.
There is however, a slight problem with the album in the pacing and sequencing of the songs.
He does apply a sparser feel to ‘I Would Still Love You’, on which his weepy guitar tone cleverly evokes lyrical feel, but the song is in danger of losing its impact because the arrangements are all too similar, even when he adds additional organ, sonorous strings and harmonies.
That said, he belatedly redresses the balance on the bluesy, JJ Cale influenced ‘Walk In Style’. He adds a sinewy guitar and distant horns as a foil for some much gruffer vocals, which again serve to emphasise the lyrical intent. Walk tall son!
“You can walk in a straight line, you can walk in a curve, you can walk in silence, you can walk with a swerve.
However you want to walk, Walk in style.”
‘I Found You’ is equally good and as the title suggest it’s a celebratory piece, almost in spite of the portentous drum pattern. It’s also counter-weighted by some significant harmonies on the chorus.
And then when you think you have the measure of the song, he adds a weepy mid-number guitar part that starts angularly and then makes an emotive connection with his lyrics.
He’s also good at re-interpreting stories to his own end, as evidenced by the cool shuffle ‘On The Run’, the story of American mobster Henry Hill, in which the first verse cleverly sets the scene:
“Nice to make your acquaintance, sorry we can’t be friends, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, me and Gina are just pretend, could be today or tomorrow, when we have to go skip this town, dad either slept with fishes or talked and sent bad men down.”
I mentioned Moscow earlier on, and he doffs his hat to promoter Boris Litvinsev who organises the British Blues Invasion to Russia, which led to Richard’s recent ‘Live in Moscow’ album.
The song has a sting in the tail, which seems to suggest that his cutting edge view of things is applied just the same way to Russia as it is when he is in the States: “On the way to the show – the metro is so clean, Eyes of the people on the tube – look away don’t want to be seen, Afraid of maybe saying something – to the wrong type of guy, Little thieves are hanged – great ones escape with lies.”
He rounds off the album with the meditative ‘Thoughts & Prayers’, which employs a clean tone bathed in ethereal echo, as he brings realism to bear on the spiritual: “Cause words so easily said, one day we’ll face the reality and truth, they don’t bring back the dead.”
‘Ticket To Memphis’ is a thoughtful album. It resembles a musical diary and one that gives us precious insights into contemporary times. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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