The Pete Gow we’re acquainted with is the frontman of Case Hardin, an edgy bunch of UK country rockers. Here, on his first solo album, Gow turns in a collection of songs which are personal and introspective, the country Americana of Case Hardin replaced by muted tones and sweeping strings. His voice is stained and regretful throughout as he wanders through a set of songs which recall musically, Elton John back in his Tumbleweed days, and lyrically, Guy Clark. It’s beautifully recorded by producer Joe Bennett who also played many of the instruments you hear as well as arranging the strings and horns, Gow played the guitars and Fin Kenny drums and aside from that it’s all Bennett.
The opening song, One Last Night Stand, sets the tone for the remainder of the album as tentative piano and spare acoustic strumming introduce the number which then swells with strings, organ and a sturdy rhythm section as Gow almost croaks out this bleak recollection of a tryst doomed from the start. Mikaela follows in a similar fashion although the story here is less abstract as it posits the protagonists as a later day Bonnie & Clyde in the sense that they were destined for each other while there’s a slight mariachi touch to the horn arrangements. Bennett’s arrangements reach their pinnacle on the tremendous title song which again grows from its spare beginnings to include a majestic string section which spirals around Gow’s resigned voice. Here he’s bereft and alone it seems but there’s solace in music as the strains of The Pogues’ Rainy Night In Soho waft from a radio and distract him from his solipsism and indeed the song closes with a scuzzy snippet of that self same song.
It’s a gloomy album to be sure but that never harmed the likes of Leonard Cohen. So we get the halting and bittersweet country influenced TV Re-Runs and the stripped back folk of I Will & I Do, the most straightforward song here and the one which most recalls those Texas Troubadours. Pretty Blue Flower is a lengthy dissection of a relationship teetering on the edge and with its winsome country stylings and closing violin contribution is somewhat remarkable. The lead single from the album, Strip For Me, finds Gow examining the alarming double standards which still abound these days as he references the now infamous Stormy Daniels while singing from the perspective of a powerful white male. Again, this is clothed in a wonderful arrangement, the song sweeping on with an excellent sense of resignation and ennui. Here There’s No Sirens might be miles removed from Case Hardin but it posits Gow as one of our best songwriters about these days.