Al Shields and The Delahayes. Fire On Holy Ground EP

online-square-imageEdinburgh based Al Shields has been carving a bit of a reputation on the local Americana scene over the past couple of years. Here he ditches his usual acoustic presentation for a full blooded band sound giving us six songs which are all fine country flavoured rock numbers and which display his admiration for the likes of Jason Isbell along with some venerable artists who have walked this road before. Melodic, with curling guitars and a flavour of sweet pedal steel playing, Shields and his Delahayes have turned in a most welcome collection.

The disc opens with the peaceful easy feeling of Counting The Hours with the band gliding through this lyrically downbeat number as Shields sings of sleepless nights spent listening to high lonesome sounds waiting for his absent other half to come home. It’s a classic topic and Shields’ note of resignation in his voice along with the band’s easy stroll brings his words to life. There’s another absent lover on Kick Your Feet Up although here Shields is more expectant as this time she’s coming home and he’s just biding his time. With a finely flowing twang guitar solo thrown in to elevate matters it’s another fine country rock song in the vein of JD Souther and Shields and The Delahayes go for this sound again in a full throttled manner on the pedal steel laced The Road with the rhythm section giving the song a muscular beat.

Elsewhere, Shields delves into Isbell territory on the glistening Holy Ground with gossamer guitars decorating his opaque words while Closer allows the band to stretch out on this doom laden set of images with some fine dynamics and a swell guitar solo. They close with the brooding The Boys In The Band, a southern rock tinged salute to bar bands plagued by endless requests to play Freebird. A fine nod to the somewhat beer stained  rock’n’roll romanticism which fuels endless combos  it’s delivered with an excellent sense of world weariness, the guitars lazily  strummed as a harmonica wheezes,  the song sounding as if it was conceived at the same time as Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night.

All in all an excellent EP, Shields convincing as the wounded romantic troubadour while the band (Stuart Brunton on guitar, Adam McMillan bass, David McManus drums and Dale Birrell pedal steel and keyboards) all play like seasoned Nashville veterans.

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