Chris Birdsall, a new singer/songwriter to this listener/writers ears, maybe, but he is a well respected and established artist, with a large fan base, and catalogue of work behind him that any musical artist would be proud of. After listening to this, his latest solo album, I can totally understand why too. So, i am really glad that his music has been recommended to me, so I want to do same here to everyone out there in Sounds Magazine world! Manchester-based, he is a musician of the best kind – great lyrics, strong melodies, and with some great arrangements too. He released his first solo album ‘Joker In A Dream” in 2010, which people liked, and then followed it up with the acoustic album ‘Under The Tree’. He was originally a member of a number rock bands, including Whistler, and later The Swirl, before the band The Virginmarys, with who he toured in the early 2000’s, and released a number of recordings, before pursuing his own songwriting career, but he has kept that rock style in some of some of thee songs here. He is currently working with a new band, called Old Ben, which I’m sure I’ll be writing about at some point soon too. This experience he made with successful recordings and touring bands have certainly added an edge to some of his solo work, but in a really good way of course, by adding another colour to his music writing palette. Chris is thought of, as you can read about him on the internet if you want, as an alternative, indie musician, but I personally think that just these terms actually don’t give his creative spirit justice, as for me, he and his music are more than that. The songs are all independent of one another – lyric wise, melodic wise, etc – but together have a feeling of musical unity that is convincing in the expression from both the voice and instrumental performances too. So, in reality, the songs are hard to pin down to just alternate/indie stuff, this is songwriting at it’s best. His songs can be both forceful, but also pretty subtle, sometimes within each song actually, but whichever way he decides to draw us into his world, it works. Mind you, he has been described as a cross between John Martyn and Seasick Steve – although I think thats great, I believe there’s more to Chris’s work – he’s himself. The title ’13 Songs’, well, I reckon the clue’s in the actual title isn’t it really. A collection of 13 songs of diverse and yet at the same time coherent musical thoughts – you’ll see what I mean when you get yourself a copy and a listen yourself. All of them are well crafted, and delivered to your auditory nerves in a pretty convincing way, that you can’t really help being drawn into his world. Anyway, back to the actual album, which is hopefully what you’re reading this for!! As you can imagine, reviewing a full account of every, single song would make this a very long read indeed, so I’ve selected my particular favourites, and the ones which stand out to me anyway, maybe not your choice though, as there’s such a great choice of songs here!!
“Can You Feel The Rain”
This makes a really cracking opening to the whole album, with great guitar work, whilst the powerful vocals from Chris open our ears, and prepare us for a journey of delights, into his songwriting world.
A stunning, effective song, with, again, some nice guitar licks/riffs, in fact, pretty guitar led song, and in my book, thats gotta be pretty good – I speak as a one time guitar plucker here! Then, when the band comes in at the chorus, taking the music up a notch, so to speak, well, just say great stuff.
Some very nice picking guitar licks here, which introduces us to a beautiful song. A really great touch, for me anyway, is the way he, and the guitar, weave around each other. Sometimes in unison/sync completely, at others creating a feel of a real duet going on between the two instruments – voice and guitar, which is the reality. This does it for me – a songwriter, with a guitar, simple and clear, stunning.
“Joker In A Dream”
A real stripped back band here, with just acoustic guitar, bit of percussion and backing vocals, all over a Led Zeppelin, blues style, bass run – adding here that Chris is strumming a guitar, whilst playing the run-down. I think his impassioned voice really comes over in this song – yep, I like this one too.
A pretty cool, jaunty song, reminds me, a teeny, weeny bit of a Neil Young performance many years ago, with the musical stance, but different, if you see what I mean, but the whole effect is great. I like the damped guitar bits, then again, I like the full band sound too – plus, it made my feet tap, my head nod a little and also smile, that’s cool.
So, there you have it, my thoughts about very well put together recording, a collection of fine songs, by a great singer/songwriter, try and get a copy.