Winter Mountain “I Swear I Flew” (Astral Fox records, 2016)

Winter-Mountain-2016I Swear I Flew is Winter Mountain’s first full album since his acclaimed self-titled, debut album in 2013. With a keen rhythm section in support, Cornish singer-songwriter Joe Francis (Winter Mountain) leads the listener through a set of songs perfectly suited for the genre aimed. Francis is not only carrying on a tradition ventured by such legends as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Young but developing certain aspects as he ventures along the road, marrying his fine songwriting to his ability to seamlessly harness his energy.

Francis starts off with a swagger via the impressive inviting “Platinum And Gold” and though “Sunlight, Good Roads” may not match it, he immediately comes back strong on an impassioned “The Lucky Ones”. Bathed in a full but never over the top production, it typifies his sound if this were at all possible. I say this because Francis tackles the big haunting ballad “The Morning Bell” and “Dragonfly” manfully, and though not as thrilling as some tracks they are none the less essential, the latter wrapped in deft acoustic guitar and cello (Kath Williams) cleverly pulling the listener in, while with a more restless approach and fine use of banjo, pedal steel, harmonica and fiddle plus harmony vocals (Seth Lakeman) “Before The Flood” gains in stature with each listen.

When it comes to simple, with an acoustic opening, “Open Heart” ticks a great many boxes, Francis’ lead producing a more gritty rock edged approach as he opens his heart. As for his tribute to County Donegal “Banba’s Crown” warmed in Niall Murphy’s fiddle and a powerful mood evoking arrangements, it leaves a lasting impression. Closing piece “Fireworks Night” (Promises We Make)” with its neat use of piano and harmonica could be be the finest slow song on show.

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