Here is an album that demands attention. Geraint Watkins is an experienced and well-respected singer and musician with all the right connections. This is UK Americana of the highest quality, providing an insight into some of the most interesting musicians providing this kind of music here and now. Take note! Watkins has written all ten songs on the album. Their lyrical power is a further sign of a composer and musician at the peak of his career. He is the producer of the album, along with Simon Ratcliffe of Basement Jaxx. As a divertissement, perhaps, just try that group’s ’Rendez-Vu’ and or ‘Oh My Gosh’, just to listen to Simon Ratcliffe’s understanding of rhythm and its link with words.
On ‘Rush of Blood’ one must listen actively, and be prepared to be moved / shaken / amazed by the music. So, here is a step by step guide on how to join in with the musical adventure that is this record, taking note of the musicians involved, their contribution, and the subtle force of the lyrics.
The confidence of the first, title, track is immediately appealing, stressed by the rhythm of Oli Savill’s echoing percussion (he has played, recorded and toured with various musicians from around the world, as is true of all artists playing on the album). And Geraint’s singing reinforces and strengthens that ‘Rush’ of the title: “The earth beneath my feet/ Will tremble and shake / Sunshine will burn/ And a storm will break.” Direct atmosphere with just a few words. Perfect. The die is cast for the collection.
The second track, ‘Hold Back’, is a duet with Geraint and Little George Sueref singing together with Little George on harmonica. Little George is up there with the best of them. ‘Heart of Stone’ is a winning three-piece where simplicity wins again. Here, take note of Kira Small’s backing vocals, and David Hartley’s pedal steel. Again, both revered musicians, with David known for his work with Sting and his arrangement of ‘My Ain True Love’ in Cold Mountain.
Track 4, ‘Middle Of The Night’, the centre of this album, is a production tour de force. “Standing on the rock where Johnny stood / I felt like crying.” Geraint’s lyrics are backed up by an orchestra of musicians, strings coming to the fore, “As all the answers come to light.” Indeed, somewhere, in there, is Lee Hodgson on guitar, his only appearance on this record. In the song, Geraint cites some of his own memories: “Happy days on Tiger Bay,” and his words remember some of the anomalies, perhaps like “going east on a westbound train.” No fears of that in this collection.
Track 5, ‘Heaven Only Knows’ gives us a quartet: Geraint as lead vocal, Simon Ratcliffe on guitar, Little George on bass, and Martin Winning, outstanding on clarinet.
Five people provide ‘On The NSide’: Geraint singing and on piano, Simon, on guitar, and Kira Small, Bergen White and Lisa Silva proving backing vocals. This is a sad, slow and gentle “it’s all over” song, with the whispering, whimpering “Fail me.. fail me” in the background. Again, effective simplicity.
On Track 7, On My Mind, Little George Sueref can be heard, again on harmonica, and of particular interest, there is Sarah Jory chiming in memorably on pedal steel. ‘I Got The Blues’ is a pondering song, perfect here for Geraint, “Sitting on the bank of the river / Minding my business” with the song rounded off perfectly by the sound of Martin Winning’s clarinet.
‘Reason To Live’ is Geraint on his own: “I got powers in the palm of my hand / I got you in the power of love.” Apparently casual, but the rhythm, the chords of the guitar sweep you up: “I got the power of love!” Again memorable.
Another day over, track 10, leaves lasting thoughts to the end. “I had the time of my life / And now the story is told…”
So, the collection concludes. The production by Geraint and Simon, all the songs, all the musicians involved, make a lasting impression.