Michael Baker ”Dust & Bone” (Keys To The Kingdom Records, 2016)

michael_bakerMichael Baker may be a relative unknown in the world of Americana, but he shouldn’t be. ‘Dust & Bone’ is a mighty-accomplished album, with more than a hint of alt-rock and acoustic folk thrown in with the beautiful songwriting and smooth vocals. Kicking off with ‘Steady & The Stuck’, the acoustic intro quickly drops into a full-band chorus and whilst it is not overly electric or loud, it does contain a lot of power that turns the track into a wonderful introduction to Michael’s Anglo-French take on a classic Americana style.

Whilst it is unusual for a man of Michael’s European background to turn to Americana, his history of busking around the streets of Europe does give rise to an experience beyond his years, and an honesty in is lyrics. The title track of ‘Dust & Bone’ is a duet with Georgia Mason, who has such a unique voice that blends well with Michael’s vocals to create a really interesting harmony. It sounds almost like Georgia has inhaled helium before singing, but all this does is add a great texture to the song which is certainly intriguing!

‘Half My Love’ is a really haunting song, made all the more stark with Michael’s use of acoustic instrumentation and a slight reverb on his vocals. With the main refrain ‘‘Choking on fresh air/ Is like playing with fire/ This game of truth or dare/ I can give half my love’’ mixed with a beautifully simple melody the song works on many levels, keepin the music simple and not messing around with forcing anything onto the listener.

‘Slowly’ is also a fabulous track. With a very minimalist backing and a synthed vocal which sounds inspired by Imogen Heap, it is really creative and makes such a great atmosphere. When the deep percussion kicks in half-way through the track starts to thicken out and build some momentum. ‘Slowly’ is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste given it is somewhat of a departure from the alt-rock Americana of the rest of the record, but it shows a great diversity in Michael’s musicality, and for that creativity it is a great addition to ‘Dust & Bone’.

‘Dust & Bone’ is a really good and interesting record. It is somewhat of a departure from Americana classics, but the musical style and experimentation is reminiscent of some of the more creative proponents of mainstream Americana at the moment. It is definitely worth a listen.

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