An old Blabber’n’Smoke favourite, The Rutland Troubadour, AKA Paul McClure, returns to the trenches with a third album which is chockfull of carefully considered and artfully delivered songs. There’s less of his old troubadour style and Americana leanings here, instead, as one listens to the album, artists which come to mind include Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe and even Paul McCartney. There’s a new producer (Joel Payne, who plays keyboards in McClure’s occasional band, Local Heroes and here plays keys, guitars and percussion) and a sense of maturity in several of the songs with McClure celebrating family life and domesticity although there are still some more rambunctious moments and even some cod calypso on A Long, Long Time Ago.
The albums opens with possibly the strongest song on the collection, The Morning And My Love, with McClure pouring his heart out over a forlorn piano on a tremendous love song. It’s moving and perfectly arranged with speckles of electric guitar and a brief swell of vocal harmonies towards the end. McClure revisits this sombre mood on the delicate How Did You Know and the lengthy and powerful Sing With Me, both love songs of a sort as McClure summons up the frailties, hopes and dreams of relationships.
Sing To The Stars is an earthy folk like and angry narrative which relates the tale of a wage slave who regrets missing his children growing up. Family life also features in the affecting Daddy Will You Hold My Hand, a McCartney like ditty (with some excellent slide guitar from Ally McErlaine of Texas) while the mild Caribbean lilt to A Long, Long Time Ago almost disguises McClure’s reminiscences of growing up and his present day domesticity. He also knocks off some more childhood memories on his solo rendition of Grandad’s Pants which closes the disc and he celebrates the wonders of ordinariness on the title song which is the most upbeat number on the album. Finally, the folky rocker, This must Be What They Mean (When They Sing About The Blues) is a grand loose-limbed jaunt with wheezy harmonica, bar room piano and Beach Boy/Beatles harmonies all thrown in.