SINGLE REVIEW: Father’s Second Son by Lachlan Grant Splendor

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Lachlan Grant Splendor is an acoustic singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from New Zealand. His songwriting has been compared with that of Neil Young, whilst his distinctive vocals have drawn comparisons with England’s Billy Bragg. He cites influences such as Dave Matthews, Ben Howard, Lumineers, Hollow Coves and the aforementioned Young.

To that, I would add the slight influence, or at least similarity to, fellow Kiwi Neil Finn (Crowded House) and aspects of Elliott Smith. There is also a spiritual aspect to his music and he describes his concept album The Choice Is Yours as being inspired by higher conscious awakening.

This song, Father’s Second Son, is a beautifully crafted and performed acoustic ballad in the complex time signature of 12/8. It begins with haunting Elliott Smith-style picked acoustic guitar which sets the stage for Lachlan’s unique, quirky voice which does indeed bring to mind Billy Bragg, but only a little. The lyrics grab you from the start, depicting the complicated relationship with his older brother and their father: “When I was sixteen my brother was twenty… when I was sixteen, life felt so empty…….I looked up to him, he was my role model…..”.

The subtly anthemic and memorable chorus encapsulates the song’s emotional honesty and self-reflection: “What if I become my father’s second son?“. The second verse is equally poignant with lines like, “Used to always think that I would turn out the same… drink the same beer, burn with the same hot flame, score with the gorgeous girls….but none of that ever came true.….”. The understated and restrained delivery adds to the affecting nature of the song. Special credit should go to the intricate drumming, full of nuance and deft touches.

Overall, this is a great example of how the honest, confessional songwriting style can be one of the most powerful in music. Lachlan wears his heart on his sleeve but with the slightest hint of self-pity, delivering a genuinely moving song that can stand alongside that of his musical heroes. His musicianship (guitar and bass) along with his vocals are first rate and although you would place it in the alternative category, the universality of his songwriting means there’s no limits to the potential of his popularity.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Rusty Strings (+ bonus tracks) by Brown Kid

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https://brownkid.hearnow.com/

Brown Kid is the artistic moniker of a performer and singer/songwriter born in Lima, Peru but now residing in the United States. For many years he has been performing, recording and collaborating with artists. His music is essentially indie folk/acoustic in a similar style to songwriters like Jack Johnson, Elliott Smith and John Butler. I would also add aspects of Sixto Rodriguez and Damien Rice. However, there’s a dry humour in his songwriting that is distinctively his own.

This EP, Rusty Strings, consists of six tracks as well as live versions of two tracks, La Farra and Complacency, and a new song called Sunrise. It begins with the funky acoustic-led groove of Welcome To My Funeral which exemplifies his accessible songwriting style and captivating vocal delivery. Lyrically, it’s a darkly humorous song about imagining people’s reaction to his funeral: “You never liked me while I was alive, there’s no need to pretend….”.

La Farra is equally funky and entertaining with an infectious tale about a wild night out. The chorus is particularly catchy, augmented by backing harmonies. The song is full of nice touches and effective dynamics like the “bounce, bounce, bounce” line emphasized by the drums in the second verse. Great track. The following Jamicamecrazy maintains a similar chord progression but is lyrically completely different, an irresistibly catchy and humorous ode to Jamaica. The rap section is unexpected but works well.

Fourth track Hole In The Wall is rather more melancholy, written in a minor key with a lilting vocal melody that brought to mind the late, great Elliott Smith. Again, there are some nice, unexpected touches like the brief female backing vocals in the second verse.

The title track comes next, and it’s a return to his more rhythmic style with a percussive groove you can’t help but tap your toe to. With its Latin American vibe and soul searching lyrics (“I know I must travel on this road alone but I know these rusty strings will take me home….”), it made me think of Sixto Rodriguez and songs like Sugar Man.

Final track Complacency is more akin to Jack Johnson’s upbeat and easy going style, a languid contemplative song about appreciating the life you have and people who always want more: “Nothing wrong with wanting more from life, working hard and putting yourself in binds….”. It’s a ‘to thy own self be true’ kind of message and a fine way to end the EP.

Aside from this are two great acoustic and vocal renditions of La Farra and Complacency recorded at Sound Wall Studios and a new song Sunrise. It’s another charming and likeable track about rolling with life’s punches featuring a sunny vocal melody and a simple but effective refrain: “Waiting for the sunrise….”.

Overall, this is a very fine EP by a charismatic singer/songwriter who has found his own stylistic niche. His songs are shot through with warmth, humour and experience-borne wisdom which are all hallmarks of a great songwriter. He has no problem coming up with memorable melodies and his easy to get into songwriting style means he has the commercial appeal and potential of someone like Jack Johnson. Hopefully, this EP will help him reach a much wider audience.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Something Else by Tim Spriggs

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www.timspriggs.com

Tim Spriggs is a singer and songwriter hailing from Australia. He grew up in an environment surrounded by music, learning guitar along the way. Over the past ten years he has been honing his songwriting craft and this has culminated in the release of his first material, a five song EP called Something Else, with this being the title track and lead single. His music is essentially in the genre of acoustic pop though he has stated that he listens to a wide array of artists and genres.

To my ear, Tim Spriggs belongs in a long lineage of acoustic singer/songwriters and troubadours. His finger picking style recalls classic songwriters of the past like Nick Drake and Cat Stevens, along with more modern artists like Ed Sheeran and George Ezra. Vocally, Tim is blessed with a rich baritone voice, singing in a low register similar to Ezra and not sounding unlike fellow Australian Nick Cave at times.

Something Else is exquisitely recorded, consisting of crystal clear acoustic guitar and vocals, at least to begin with. The song is about individuality and making your own choices despite the influence of others: “They tell me what I want, maybe it’s what I need….but I want something else…”. The first section features some fine Nick Drake-esque finger picking from Spriggs, who has developed a unique style as a guitarist.

This minimal style is nice contrasted by a 2/4 section featuring some Western-style whistling and tastefully driven electric guitar. The resulting sound is very polished and radio friendly, which bodes well for his commercial prospects. More importantly, the song has a memorable hook and an emotive quality that is best described as ‘real’, clearly written from the heart.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished song from an artist who has emerged fully formed and hit the ground running. He has developed his own style so that he stands out from the crowd yet would not sound out of place next to similar sounding artists on mainstream radio, a difficult and vital balancing act. I expect his music to gain rapidly in popularity and the release of his debut album could make a seriously strong impact on the music world.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Good News by Will Adams

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Will Adams is an alternative folk singer songwriter hailing from New York. I don’t have many background details to convey on this enigmatic artist, but I can tell you that artistically he lies halfway between the folk legends Nick Drake and Cat Stevens. His music is stripped down to just his vocals and acoustic guitar, giving it an immediate intimacy and warmth.

As a songwriter, he has been prolific. In 2007, he released his marathon 23 track debut album Time Lost and Found, following up with Little Brother, Big Sister in 2008 and The Ballad of Reginald Fessenden the following year. Since then he has released a steady stream of singles and this album, Good News, marks his first full length release for a while.

From the first seconds of opening track Magic Garden, with its crystal clear, finger picked acoustic guitar and gentle, emotive vocals, the listener realizes they’re in the hands of a very fine talent. Certainly, the obvious comparison to make is with the aforementioned Nick Drake and there are undoubtedly some similarities; Adams has that same purely poetic quality that manifests in Drake’s finest work and a penchant for alternate guitar tunings.

But whereas poor Nick viewed the world through a deeply melancholy lens as opposed to rose-tinted glasses, Will Adams has an innate optimism and understated joy in his music. Magic Garden encourages appreciating what we have and seizing the day in a poignant way: “Before it’s too late to play these silly games, before we’re old and grey and cannot say our names….”.

Second song Where The Wind Will Blow has another gorgeous, lilting finger-picked  progression and is full of finely drawn and vivid lyrical imagery: “All along the river, the blue ray birds are flying by, across the cornfields and down the lane the farmer walks home in the rain…”. It’s another touching song about not knowing where life will take us.

The following She’s Partial To Fruity Drinks, as the title implies, is rather lighter in tone, painting a portrait of a woman that made me think of the mysterious female characters in Dylan songs like She Belongs To Me and Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands. The dry humour in the lyrics acts as a nice counterpoint to the more serious songs on the album: “She likes to go diving in out of town dumpsters, she lives in a house that looks like the Munsters….”.

This character continues straight into the next song, We’ve Been Conned, deepening the detail of this endearingly eccentric character: “She’s good at clearing up messes wearing fancy dresses…”. Fifth track Bread Pudding is built around a lovely descending chord progression and it’s another strangely affecting song about something simple, the eating of a pudding. It’s the measure of an artist to take the mundane and make it seem beautiful.

The next two songs, Prayer For A Homeless Man and Prayer For Frey, are both heartwarming tales, with the former a particularly moving depiction of living homeless and the importance of basic human compassion: “I turned and looked into my pocket and put ten dollars in his hand.…”.

Eighth song Longer Way Home is one of the more melancholy moments, conjuring up the sombre mood of a late night. But the Cat Stevens-esque world wonder is suitably restored on the final track, A Glorious Gift: “Let the guardian angels pick up the pieces….”. This is the ultimate message of the whole album, the dwelling on the light in the midst of darkness and making the most of our lives.

Overall, this is a wonderful collection of songs that work both separately and as a cohesive whole. As a songwriter, Will Adams has found his own niche combining the delicate poeticism of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, with the evergreen joie de vivre of Cat Stevens yet also the timeworn wisdom of Paul Simon and Dylan. In these times of internecine strife, this music seems like a glorious gift indeed.

 

VERDICT =  8.9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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