Romantica “Shadowlands” (At The Helm Records, 2017)

Opening with ‘Let The Light Go Through You’ Ben Kyle’s first release for seven years in the guise of Romantica is a wash of lush arrangement and hymnal vocals where his Irish inflexions are highlighted. There is more than a touch of Damien Rice here with the narrative vocals and seemingly effortless harmonies. Recorded in a barn in the wilds of Southwestern Minnesota, there is never a sense of the ramshackle or careworn about either the production or the songs. ‘Harder to Hear’ has a beautiful, crystal quality to its chorus and guitar-work that talks of Electric Ladyland rather than Emmet Stussy’s back yard.

Each song unfolds at its own pace; some such as the achingly lovely ‘Lonely Star’ or the bruising ‘After The War’ are mid tempo pop songs filtered through an Americana sensibility. Others such as ‘We Were Young’ and ‘Here It Comes’ wear their heart on their sleeve with slow, measured delicacy (and some delightful steel guitar in the latter’s case). Only ‘Cecil Ingram Conor’ and ‘Blue Heart’ inject any kind of pace but the album is all the better for the restrained, introverted mood. This is a great album that gets better with each listen as the hooks get into you. Highly recommended. And a name-check for Shandy Bass too – what’s not to like!

Author: Keith Hargreaves

Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up

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