Dan Weltman is slightly bruised, reflective and striving to do better on this fine set of low key songs.
Taking a break from his time as main songwriter for the Bristol based summery psych pop band Snails, Dan Weltman has recorded a solo album which, with its laid-back folkiness, tinged ever so slightly with a wisp of Americana, sits within the realm inhabited by the likes of Kevin Ayers, Johnny Flynn, Dan Michaelson and Alec Bowman.
Written by Weltman as he isolated in Devon amidst the pandemic lockdown the album features his hypnotic yet world weary voice up front, backed by skilful arrangements played by what sounds like a loose assemblage of musicians winding down as dawn breaks, having played themselves out all night long. There’s a wonderful sense of languor infused in these sorrowful songs, hints of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake hide within the nooks, crannies and crevices while mavericks such as Jack Ladder and Peter Mulvey are also brought to mind. The album was produced by Lukas Drinkwater (who plays guitar, bass and autoharp) while Joe Harvey-Whyte provides pedal steel and Kate Dagget offers some fine harmonies on several of the songs.
The album opens with the sweet tone of a lonesome pedal steel guitar on the tremulous ‘Bound Away’, a song which finds Weltman almost in hiding, chain smoking and hurting from a relationship breakdown, sung in the most charming fashion with a slight hint of hope somewhere in the future. Next up is the ‘The Garden’, a bucolic folk rock song with his strained voice underpinned by his acute finger picking with brash percussion and a mournful organ allowing the song to sound as if it were plucked from a Witchseason production circa 1971. He returns to this sound on ‘I Was A Ship’ where the folk element is amplified by the traditional ballad style of the lyrics along with the addition of fiddle while ‘Pink Night’ (with its allusions to Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’) has what sounds like a mournful brass band (presumably a studio concoction) on what is a quite delightful love song.
The pedal steel returns on the curdled country rock of ‘On A Mountain’, a song delivered so hesitantly it’s in danger of going backwards but which eventually just rolls on majestically. ‘Rivers On My Mind’ stands out as the one song here which could be described as upbeat although that’s primarily due to its fast paced delivery, with pedal steel and driving percussion giving it an almost cosmic country allure although Weltman’s voice remains hangdog as if he were being dragged along in the song’s slipstream. He’s at his most apologetic on ‘Nobody’s Fault’, the most fully arranged song on the album, graced with a Leonard Cohen like waltz swing, while there’s a continental bohemian whiff to the louché ‘With You At My Side’.
At the centre of the album is the song ‘These Dreams’. Here Weltman strips back all but his guitar and a wheezy harmonium as he reflects on his past and tries to find some salvation in the shadow reflections of dream time reveries. It’s the fulcrum of an album which balances between hope and despair and which does so with some flair.