Guest reviewer Rudie Humphrey is very impressed by this debut from Glaswegian James Edwyn
No biography, no press release, just a brown envelope on the mat when I returned home, understated, standing on its own two feet. The opener The new Arrival is a bare acoustic number, Dylanesque, Edwyn sounds like the best bits of Simon and Garfunkel. You think you know how it’s going to be and that preconception would alone be a good record. On meeting the Man in the Suit, the second number, is the album clincher. Super radio friendly, a groovy little shuffle with some damm fine guitar, I love the harmony on “if you see me coming, you’d better not stick around”. Emma Joyce on harmony vocals is terrific throughout, but on this track it is all about the guitar picking – the solo is a stormer. There is a delightful undercurrent across the record, an all pervading darkness of the soul, woe, loss, a permissive melancholy. On She Sees Rainbows, again augmented by Joyce’s voice, Edwyn is a British slant on Willie Nelson, beaten down, but not beaten, and the heartbroken piano leaves you sobbing. It’s about dark places but it is far from gloom inducing creating a sense of solace instead. It fills you with hope, vanquishes loneliness, reassures you that we all have these feelings, it’s normal. “We should be dancing off the ceiling, but we’re holding on to nothing, that’s how it works” serves as illustration.
The construction, the subtle, delicate, refined construction is stunning. Only the best is used, the minimum, and it’s the better for it. The day they mixed this record and it was complete Edwyn should have been at his happiest, to know he’d touched perfection. If you played on this record you’ve touched greatness and your pride should be unmeasurable. There is Dylan, Adams, Nelson, Currie, Finn and Costello in this record, in its DNA, it’s channelled and used in an evolved state; there’s a family resemblance to all of them, but he is his own man. Maslow is The Lemonheads, Lloyd Cole and similar 90’s artists Toad the Wet Sprocket brought to the boil, the froth knocked off and just the body savoured. It is a record to remind you life has so many good things, and why music is so valuable, how it can shape a mood. The Last Waltz’s pleading “please” is Hansard, Fray or Rice, done better. “How could you just turn it off, like a light you left on overnight by mistake” is the best heartbroken line of the year, and if this isn’t on their t-shirts they’ve missed a trick – it’s their “guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm”. The flourish near the start of I Figure Son, probably a Fender Rhodes, definitely played by Scott Keenan, is worth the album’s price alone – 3 notes that sum up this remarkable record, Borrowed Band it might be but extend the loan, it’s certainly a worthy investment.