Steve Cradock: Travel Wild – Travel Free (Proper Records)
“One of the best guitarists and song writers of his generation”. Martin Copland-Gray enjoys the new album from Steve Cradock.
The word genius is bandied about far too much these days. In fact there are many words of a similar ilk dished out by brainless music types to the talentless, fame hungry souls who populate the great proliferation of talent shows clogging up the channels and airwaves.
Therefore it is satisfying to be able to listen to an album put together both artfully and skilfully by a man for whom it seems the word genius rests easy on those well cut Midland Mod shoulders of his.
Steve Cradock is without doubt one of the most talented guitarists of our generation – fact. Not content with being the right hand man of Paul Weller having played on every one of the great man’s solo albums since Wild Wood and the driving force of Birmingham’s finest Ocean Colour Scene, he is also an established solo artist.
Travel Wild – Travel Free is his third solo album, following in the footsteps of his intriguing début record The Kundalini Target in 2008 and two years ago the fabulous Peace City West it is a masterful consolidation of his song writing talents and expert musicianship.
With his wife Sally to the fore on co-lead vocals the feel here is Pastoral with an edge. Sure there are the nods to his Mod heritage on tracks such as Sheer Inertia and Doodle Book but this record is so much more than that. It’s not just a confident swagger down Carnaby Street dressed like Steve Marriott but a constantly revolving and colourful ride through the sun kissed lanes of the English Countryside with guitar in hand and your girl by your side.
Each song is beautifully crafted showcasing the kind of talent most of us would kill for. From opener Anyway The Wind Blows through I Am The Sea and into The Magic Hour our journey is clear, the day is long and the sky is blue.
10,000 Times is a deft example of musicianship at this level and via the experimental interlude Out Of Mist the pace moves up somewhat for the strummed excellence and obligatory backward techniques employed on Street Fire.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many perfect melodies Cradock can come up with. Bear witness Running Isn’t Funny Anymore and the all too brief interlude Elizabethan.
So as this gorgeous summer of ours gently and seamlessly moves into Autumn with its days of colourful change and cool crisp evenings this could very well be its soundtrack. Weller’s 22 Dreams is meant to chart one person’s journey through the twelve months of a year and should be listened to in it’s entirety rather than dipping in and out again as we are wont to do in this age of MP3, I this and I that.
When did we stop sitting down putting the needle on the record or pressing play and listening to an album from start to finish? Have our attention spans become so short or is it just something we need to be reacquainted with and make time within our busy lives for?
This album feels very much in the same vein and demands your full attention and a commitment to exploring the themes on offer here. Once again the ambient sounds and skilful instrumentation conjured up by Cradock on Shark Fin Island take you by the hand and transport you to a place of ethereal quality.
The album closer Dreaming My Life Away with it’s 60’s influenced keys is a sweeping psychedelic piece of work that makes you feel as if you’re ambling down a country lane with the sun at your back and a dream of days gone by in your heart.
As the leaves in the canopy above begin to grow ever darker and the sunlight dims from view, the Green Man bids you walk a little deeper into the forest of your mind. Follow his lead and at the end of lane lies an old oak door. Take a chance, step through the door like a troubadour and while just an hour away.
All words by Martin Copland-Gray. More work by Martin can be found in his Louder Than War archive.