CHRIS CLEVERLEY: WE SAT BACK AND WATCH IT UNFOLD
CD / DL
An ominously titled but smartly observed set of songs from Chris Cleverley and a whole bunch of friends.
Alt-folk may be the label but the plan to release his new set of songs around World Mental Health Day, sees him addressing themes from deteriorating anxious minds that seem to be a symptom of our modern age through to literary heroines. He’s called the album “the product of a thousand related conversations and testimonies” and the immediacy of the title track points fingers at the loss of NHS services essential for tackling mental health issues.
With the signature Cleverley fingerstyle guitar with its various tunings at the core, he’s backed by an impressive team that brings out a more progressive folk feel to the new songs. Sam Kelly acts as co-producer and Evan Carson, Jamie Francis and Graham Coe from his Lost Boys are an influential presence as are a number of his peers from the Company Of Players. It’s no surprise then that they do a version of The Golden Vanity with The Low Light Low that Sam and his boys include in their own set.
Early namechecks for high priestesses and frosted mirrors amidst the warmth of blossoming new love sets us off with a spring in the step and forewarns us that this is a real band effort with the strings and wind adding a touch of class to the open and clear production values. Unusually, given the subject matter, the title track has a determined and driving quality about it that wouldn’t be out of place as one of the big showcase numbers in one of Sam Kelly’s sets. I’d also offer up the challenge to see how many other songs anywhere incorporate the phrase “resource planning analysts” into their lyrics. Having got some of the bolder arrangements out of the way, A Voice For Those Who Don’t Have One is a more easy-paced and melancholic and with the cool ambience of Happy And Proud sees the direction take a turn and Cleverley stepping into the spotlight. He goes on to celebrate imperfections with a jaunty guitar tune and the “come be reclusive with me” refrain before addressing the cautionary tale of another priestess, Madame Moonshine, and the esoteric dark arts of Victorian London in a Pink Floyd-ian atmospheric waltz.
At the risk of falling into a mid-album lull, a head of steam builds again with In A Dreamlike State with the subtle presence of Jamie Francis’ banjo on the former injecting some life and the gentle restraint of the lovely melody on The Low Light Low managing to rein it in from becoming a Kelly-esque barnstormer.
It’s a confident piece of work. Chris Cleverley has upped the game on his second album, developing and honing his songwriting craft.
Watch Chris playing Missing Persons with his trio here: