This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 6/05
Here in Britain, there was never a better time for a Folk
artiste to embark on a solo career. True, the folk club scene is not as
vibrant as it was, and many have bitten the dust these past few years.
But, it strikes me that the whole “genre” thing is less “set-in-stone”
than previously: as a result folk artistes, blues performers,
country…and even contemporary rock and pop acts can play one another's
circuits, as long as they make the slight tweak to their playlist (and
give a nod to the musical cravings of that night's audience).
But of course the big difference between today's new performer and his predecessor of 20 years ago, is the thing you are reading this on now. The Internet. This can spread the message in a way that was impossible back then. This system also enables you to sell your album from the privacy of your home: you don't even need to find a distributor. (And whilst most distributors are solid, it also means no more horror stories of late or missing payments)
All that said, Davy Cowan has a head start on lots of others embarking on a solo career. Why? Because, he is no newcomer. For some years he has been known for his work with the Highland Rock band, Coinneach. So he sort of hits the ground running with this CD, in that he has a body of fans in the Highlands of Scotland. Davy is based in the fine town of Invergordon, looking out across to the Black Isle. A town famous for a naval mutiny.
Is there any danger of his fans proving mutinous and rejecting this CD?
No, no chance. The harder question would be whether they'd be positively delighted with the content of “Fragile People”?
Well, I have some doubt as to whether this will really bowl them over: but let me not “second guess” for them. Better to tell you how the album hit me, for I was new to his work.
There are lots of influences here. All the usual genres with a folk record: the ones mentioned in my first paragraph above. Especially simple POP. It is not a dirty word: indeed it is one that Davy seems happy to embrace. Look what he calls his label!
But Pop aside, I seem to detect a Harry Chapin wistfulness in several tracks, including “The Gatecrasher”. Then there's Saint Bob Geldof's phrasing and even his ”voice timbre” evident in the title track (almost as good a song as he could ever write incidentally). Then “Unfortunately Yours” seems to come straight from the oeuvre of Damien Rice; whereas the following track “Cynical Man” is redolent of David Gray.
“The Likes of Me” could have been Phil Ochs on a good night. Exactly the same guitar sound. He dubs his own very persuasive mandolin on to his guitar here: previously one had noted the solid mandolin work of Jean-Pierre Sieczkarek. My favourite track, by the way.
It is an interesting debut album. He is well served by some very competent session musicians, and clearly is no slouch in that department himself. To boot he has a strong and expressive voice. The album is very well produced with a crispness of sound and non-varying sound levels between tracks (and by the way, that is not the dumb remark it might seem: you'd be surprised how often with some albums one needs to adjust volume/graphic equaliser controls from track-to-track).
But, and here is the “but" ... in the final analysis, the CD is only a qualified success. And the reason? The songs, dear Reader, the songs.
They are all perfectly earnest attempts at memorability. Work has gone into them: I have heard many, many worse songs. And if the lyrics border on the solipsistic at times, Davy tries to ring the very changes in melodic structure that evade him in subject matter. But that said, I cannot see any of these songs lasting a generation or two.
But I have every hope for Davy Cowan lasting the course. Maybe he can write just that bit stronger songs on Album #2. I hope so. For he knows how to put a song across.
All songs by Davy Cowan.
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