A return engagement with a favourite artist is something special precisely because you’ve got a sense of what is coming but not exactly what may arrive – it’s just that tension creates a unmatched sense of anticipation. Today’s post features two such favourites indeed, artists inspired by some of the legends of my poprock pantheon.
It seems Washington D.C. music veteran Edward O’Connell has doubled the wait time between albums, from four years between albums one and two to eight years getting out album three. But wow has it been worth the wait. Feel Some Love is a great big bevy of post pub rock goodness. Anyone familiar with O’Connell’s past work knows that his basic musical portrait is a triptych of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Tom Petty influences. They’re all here, though perhaps with a splash more Costello colour on these 15 featured cuts. “Golden Light” opens things with a poppy Tom Petty meets Elvis Costello demeanor. There’s a really great piano and organ tension driving this song along, topped with some distinctive lead guitar work. Then title track “Feel Some Love” slips in a bit of pop soul, particularly in the chorus. Overall there’s less of the Tom Petty rocking feel to this outing, though Petty influences are definitely there on “Florida Man,” “Things Have Really Changed,” and “Sad and Lonely,” the latter a cover of 1980s DC indie band The Neighbors. The vibe is more latter day Nick Lowe in his poprock elder statesman guise: more mellow, countryish at times, with the same devlish wordplay. “Buddy Crocker” is obviously very Lowe but also check out “Who’s Watching Your Baby” with its spot-on Paul Carrack organ sweep and understated yet alluring vocal. Reminds me of all those obscure sixties numbers Nick has been crafting into mini pop gems. For a dose of solid mid-period Costello there’s “I Got a Million of Em,” “All My Sins,” and “As No One Once Said,” the latter with some sweet Harrisonian lead guitar. “You Wish” is something a bit different emoting a poppy feel reminiscent of the late 1970s post-folkies Ian Matthews and Gerry Rafferty. For should-be hit single, I’d vote for “A Thousand Pardons” just for the solid guitar hooks. Welcome back Ed, I’m definitely feeling some love for this LP.
On Shadow Play Steve Robinson and Ed Woltil reunite to further their exploration of the various hues of folk rock, both light and dark, poppy and austere. Some of the songs are unabashedly AM folk pop, like opening cut “Chasing Angels” which reminds me of 1980s pop folk artists like Al Stewart. Or there’s “Lifeboat” or “The Way You Love Him” with their very mainstream pop folk sound circa 1979. Both “Life on a Trampoline” and “On Your Side” reach a bit further back to the previous decade, mixing Beatles with Pink Floyd influences on the former or Cat Stevens late 1969 folk-inflected pop on the latter. Things do get more indie on “Kickstart” which vibes an XTC folk feel a la Mummer, with a bit of Peter Gabriel in the vocal. Then the album goes darker. Cuts like “Ultramarine” sound a bit more dire, like a poppy Richard Thompson, while “Vulgar Tongue” has an Appalachian folk flavour melded with psychedelic elements. I love the austere and stark folk canvas of “One Day Never” and “On My Way to My Appointment with Death,” very similar to recent efforts from Tacoma Washington’s Vanilla. “Shadow Wall” is yet another different flavour of folk, this time in tune with more serious folkies like Bruce Cockburn, though with a dab of Beatles melodically. Album wrap up song “Make Amends” lends a White Album folk atmosphere to its very timely sentiment. All in all another folk-tastic release from guys who just won’t limited by a genre label.
I’m loving this return engagement with O’Connell, Robinson and Woltil but perhaps you’re seeing the show for the first time? Click on the links above to get caught up with these superior showmen.