There’s not a lot of information out there in internet land about this gentleman. Even his website is scant regarding a biography, so all we have to go on is the music, which is no bad thing at all, especially when the music reflects such an old soul. A person who is more interested in the craft of song writing, and the art of recording, and capturing a feel and a performance that shouts authenticity.
Influenced by Americana artists such as Wilco, George Thorogood, Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and Jonathon Richman, there is an attempt to define a warmth and a “realness” in its sunny Hammond and clean valve guitar sounds that capture the essence of Keith Richards and Ron Wood jamming with Tom Petty in a beachfront shack, all tooled leather straps and tweed amps, especially on a song like “Feel Like That”, with its dual guitar jams, honky-tonk piano, the loose fills and grabbed vocal harmonies, which sound almost thrown out on first take. Similarly on “When I Go”, with its beautifully layered Hammond and gorgeous underplayed backing vocal (which also features well on parts of “Dust” and “Sewn Up”).
Interspersed throughout the album there is some gorgeous fiddle (as opposed to violin) playing which really stirs in some authentic bourbon soaked flavour to the mix, lifting “Someone Who’s Not There”, and shining brightly on the rocked up solo on “I Won’t Live That Long”, which, along with the gorgeous sliding guitar picking and heartfelt singing, makes this one of the highlights of this album.
Yet despite the American feel of the music and production, at its heart there is a more English country feel to the lyrics and the vocal delivery that instantly conjures up Ronnie Lane’s street visions of regular working class life. Songs like “No Words” and “When I Go” could easily have been lifted from his Slim Chance days of rock ‘n’ roll gypsy living. Elsewhere the Stones “Exile On Main Street” is brought to mind, especially the brass driven “Sewn Up”, a lazy syncopated funk tune that, along with “Feel Like That”, one can well imagine Keith Richards singing, especially in the choruses.
The only songs that step out of this comfort zone are “Muslim Parrot Breeder”, a quirky tale involving a feud between said parrot breeder and his lesbian neighbour, in which he sounds more like Gavin Clark having a rare knees-up, “One Dot Domino”, which is more Elvis Costello/Stiff records/Nick Lowe, and “Never Again Again” which reminds me of Alabama 3, with its deep Hammond, wailing harmonica, and megaphone vocals.
A little bit of research and I have discovered he used to front a band called Big Strides, and this is his second solo release, and judging by this, it’s probably well worth digging up more. This one is definitely a grower, the more you listen to it the more it gives you. It’s like peeling an onion. Highly recommended on vinyl for it’s warm fuzzy retro/nostalgic edges.
Blue Moon In The Room is out now. Visit Marcus O’Neill’s official website to find out more.
Review by Andrew Wood