Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 22

Like a good number of his indie guitar antihero peers Graham Coxon's heroes have been of a folkier stamp than expected at face value - John Martyn, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Davey Graham. On a seventh - seventh! - solo album comprehensively overshadowed when he decided to rejoin his old band for a quick and financially rewarding run round the summer circuit at about the same time as he'd have been concluding its recording, it was time to put away childish things, the lo-fi winsomeness and the thrashy garage rock workouts, and go for the acoustic English folk referencing yearning that's always been lurking in his solo guise soul. A 68 minute long concept album at that, a narrative tale spanning birth to death.

Nobody would argue Coxon has a great expressive voice, quite thin and reedy as it is, but here it seems to add a warmth and homeliness to affairs, opening itself to the elements and offering the sentiments therein up as unvarnished. His playing style often develops a new voice of its own, Look Into The Light a hopeful fingerpicking garnished with what sounds like muted horns and sawing, owing much to Graham and Pentangle (whose Danny Thompson guests). In The Morning is his stab at a Jansch-esque epic, or more refracted through Paul McCartney's similarly influenced early spare acoustic albums, Coxon detailing "a melody in every line and a sorrow in these eyes of mine". That all said, Coxon can't completely resist strapping in and turning up, If You Want Me another delicate personally charged ballad redolent of Syd Barrett's guileless simplicity until overtaken halfway through by walls of fuzzed out guitar and an arpeggiating solo. Then there's the bluesy stomp and squealing abuse of a free solo of Dead Bees, followed by the more overtly pickin' the blues via old meaning R&B rhythm Sorrow's Army. As the life cycle winds towards its end Coxon sounds at first more desperate and then even more raw and spare (Far From Everything), concluding in November's wheezing accordions and strained thoughts of mortality. As pleasantly eccentric a body of work as fellow guest Robyn Hitchcock, as much in debt to its sources as it can afford, yet still the work of someone confident in their own abilities, Coxon has found his happiest, most honest medium. He should trust his solo instincts more often.


Sorrow's Army

The full list

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