Daniel Meade is many things but never dull. He’s been around in one form or another it seems forever, so prolific and varied is his work. Generally, that work would consist of rootsy music set to country beats but he has been known to deviate. It’s fair to say that’s the case with his latest release and this time he’s foregone that western flavour in favour of a more ballsy approach.
Meade’s moods are reflected in his art perhaps more than most and that’s never truer than with ‘When Was The Last Time’. There’s something of the roller coaster about the emotional intensity which drives his songwriting. Here he uses therapeutic letters penned to himself as inspiration. Initially a way of dealing with the darker days during a tough time, those letters became the template for each track on the album. They blossomed into songs full of hope and were, in turn, reinforced by the upbeat production of Geoff Allen at Glasgow’s CaVa Studios and Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road.
It should be noted that Meade is used to playing in bands – most notably The Flying Mules with whom he released 2016’s ‘Let Me Off At The Bottom’. This time Meade plays all the instruments – with the exception of drums, where Ross McFarlane (Texas) lends his expertise. The difference is palpable stylistically – there’s a singular personality imprinted on the songs that detaches itself from the band demographic. This is the Daniel Meade solo show.
Setting the tone, ‘As Good As It Gets’ is a message-to-self set to a mid-tempo rock n roll backbeat, as Meade reflects on, “When the nights were endless and the days were kind/When you needed pills to lose your mind” and the scene is set. It’s not long before the listener gets treated to a taste of vintage Meade. ‘The Day The Clown Stopped Smiling’ brings the big top down, from the opening chords through its country runs and swinging lead to the sudden climax. It’s ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ Elton John meets psychedelic folk-rock millennials The Coral and it’s a heady brew. The lyrics are emotive, conjuring scenes of decaying circus troops but the message is of new beginnings and the mood vibrant.
Admittedly, you have to dig quite deep into the lyrics to mine the nuggets of joy from the angst (maybe that’s a Scots thing) but that makes the process all the more fulfilling. The echo-laden vocal solo ‘So Much For Sorrow’ is driven by despair until Meade asserts that “You Take Tomorrow, I’ll take today”, thus dismissing such negativity in favour of living in the present. The anthemic ‘If The Bombs Don’t Kill Us’ makes you want to punch the air in suicidal ecstasy – a tongue in cheek ode to the Reaper. As if in reincarnation, lead single ‘Oh My My Oh’ kicks in with bright melodies, organ riffs soaring up to the heavens.
For all his movin’ and shakin’ with the stars of Americana, Meade has put in a long shift to get where he is today, whether recording in a Nashville studio with Old Crow Medicine Show or rocking out onstage with Kings Of Leon. With ‘When Was The Last Time’, he has remained true to his Glaswegian roots, soul laid bare laced with self-deprecating Scots humour. Overall it’s a positive record with a strong sense of self-affinity. More than anything Daniel Meade keeps us guessing. And guess what …musically he’s in a good place.
Break from tradition as Glaswegian roots man steps things up a gear.