Album review: DS4 – Sweet Georgina

DS4 - Sweet Georgina

Critical Discs [Release date 11.05.18]

DS4′s ‘Sweet Georgina’ is a lyric-led album, full of Ray Davies style vocals and coloured by imaginative narratives that leap from the page.

And right there at the bottom of the credits is the great female sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who once gave the world the “creative flexibility” with which to portray her sci-fi reality.

David Sinclair doesn’t deal with sci-fi, but takes his point of departure from ‘Sweet Georgina’, a muse who embodies all the emotional facets needed to deal with these fast changing times.

Possibly an early groupie, she provides his band DS4 with the title track and the kind of nugget that finds the nascent songwriting duo of David Sinclair and guitarist Geoff Peel honing their craft: “Birds can fly, they got a plan, Most bands die in the back of a van.”

And just when you think they’ve closed the door on enduring optimism, they deliver the line: “Every new song is another chance.”

If the title track could almost be about a bygone era, there’s always the counterbalance of an uncertain future to provide the band with plenty of good material.

David Sinclair explores that uncertain future on the fictive ‘Bob Dylan’s Wake’. The dark bluesy arrangement embraces a dirgy Neil Young style guitar driven intro, leading to some Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ era bv’s, a playful Bob Dylan alias on harp, Geoff Peel’s defining guitar solo and a handful of great rhyming couplets including: “The singing started a Gregorian chant, The notes seemed to hang with a heavy slant.”

The song is good summary of the light/dark dichotomy to be found at the heart of the album, as the musical accompaniment sometimes shifts from evoking lyrical nuance to the exact opposite.

‘(We Got A) Loose Connection’ for example, is predicated on an opening tick-toc rhythm, a beefy repeated riff and feather light vocals (with a notable clarity of diction) over soaring bv’s. The confident musical arrangement is in sharp contrast to the lyrical vagaries of a long distance or fragile relationship.

On the other hand the Stonsey riff-driven ‘My Blue Suede Shoes’ evokes an indefatigable spirit’s imagined rock and roll lifestyle: “The radio came on, but my record wasn’t played, the music that I heard, you couldn’t dig it with a spade.”

‘Sweet Georgina’ is built round the Sinclair/Peel axis and is framed by organic arrangements boosted by the significant presence of backing vocalist Becci Wallace

If the album sometimes takes a leap into the future, it very much deals with the troubled present on the doctored vocals of ‘The Rollin People,’ which is an outstanding song that comments on how we as a species stumble from one crisis to another.

A superbly produced song, it matches the weighty subject matter with a layered sound, a significant hook and a guitar-led wall of sound, complete with a post Hendrix middle section.  It’s already been marked out as a single in spite of its apocalyptic warning: “The planet’s almost gone, this can’t go on.”

‘The Rolling People’ also feels like an early defining moment on an album shot through with a pop sensibility, catchy melodies, memorable hooks and jangling guitar lines,

Those same guitar lines combine with Becci Wallace’s subtle bv’s and a belligerent drum finish to give the relationship song ‘(We Got A) Lost Connection’ a tighter focus. The guitar tone is slightly edgier on ‘Little Rock & Roll’, another a song with a Ray Davies influenced vocal and a brief but telling Laurie Garman harp solo. It’s a great example of Sinclair’s engaging songcraft, strong on melody and always with a resolving hook.

All those elements conjoin on the gently insistent ‘A Prettier Face’ which makes much of the repeated bv’s.

‘Sweet Georgina is an album of songs in the old fashioned sense. It benefits from a subtle equilibrium, mellifluous sequencing and a lovely flow anchored by the unexpected, but aptly titled ‘Southern State’. The uplifting melodic instrumental is built with harmony guitars over spirited percussion, as the rhythm section of Keir Adamson and bassist Derek White lock into a Muscle Shoals groove.

The well crafted album is rounded off by a reflective Americana style duet with Becci Wallace on ‘December 31 (I Will Be Gone).’

Apparently ‘Sweet Georgina’ was cut in adverse circumstances, but the pressure of getting the job done seems to have raised the band’s game, as it is easily their best album.

It’s well thought out, intelligently written, sympathetically produced and is that rare thing a song-driven album with something to say. ****

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UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) 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 28 September 2021.

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