Rutland singer/songwriter Paul McLure seems to have built a small but dedicated following from his time spent with acoustic roots duo, The Hi and Lo, who released one album on Clubhouse and were featured in the label’s famed Nebraska sessions, a live reading of all the songs from Springsteen’s album of the same name. Now flying solo, Smiling From The Floor Up is primarily a one man affair with occassional assistance from Clubhouse labelmates Alex and Hannah Elton- Wall (The Redlands Palomino Company) and Joe Bennett (The Dreaming Spires) with McLure describing it as
“a collection of songs recorded without the trappings of a band or orchestra, lightly textured layers with occasional touches of colour here and there; a harmony here, a piano there, a sympathetic slide guitar draped across the shoulders of another.”
It has to be said that the album reflects the description. Standing naked as it were with only his guitar (or in one case a ukulele) to hide behind McLure sits in the tradition of the likes of Loudon Wainwright 111 and says that many of the songs are drawn from personal experience. There’s none of Wainwright’s confessional self flagellation however with McClure sticking to sorry songs of love lost or eulogising the opposite sex as on For You, a lovely and tender song. There’s a frailty and a fatalism to these songs, none more so than on Song 6, inspired by Louis Theroux interviewing a “lifer” in the US penal system as McLure sounds as beaten and defeated as the prisoner. The title song is a dreamlike swoon with lazily picked guitar that recalls Tim Buckley or Fred Neil and halfway through a mournful pedal steel does indeed drape the song adding to the dolorous feel. While McLure solo is beguiling it has to be said that the addition of the other musicians does raise the level of enjoyment when listening to the album. The ukulele strum of Lola-Rose has some mock trumpet while the ramshackle piano and percussion backing to Any Number You Like (As Long As It’s Four) brings to mind a sepia toned pub knees up. The catch of the day here is the excellent Pollyanna which adds banjo, percussion and steel guitar, all somewhat off kilter in a Tom Waits way adding a fine tipsy feel on this excellent tale of a femme fatale who is every “barfly’s dream” who will take you all the way and leave you there.