A strong outing that proves Americana can thrive just as much in the North West of England as it can in the American South.
Liverpool might not seem like the most likely of places for an Americana musician to hail from, but the city has a scene in the genre that’s quietly bubbling under and starting to make waves (the fact AUK headquarters is also there being an added boon). Only Child, aka. Alan O’Hare, has been steadily working away and making his mark since 2012 – his band having released three albums, numerous EPs, and even a live album recorded with a string quartet – and with ‘Straight Lines’, he’s ready to further prove that the North West of England has plenty of stories to tell.
“Sing me a song about Woody / Sing me a song that’s true / Sing me a song about Nina / Simone to me and you,” opens O’Hare on the album’s self-titled track, his tone almost aggressive in its insistence and powerful with its demands. “Sing me a song that hurts / Sing me a song about a black poet / Tearing up another verse,” he continues against a backdrop of scratchy guitar and lush strings. ‘…And the Band Played On’ carries a distinct indie rock tone, with lyrics that highlight some great tragedies (including the Peterloo Massacre and the Hillsborough disaster) and how music can be both informative and healing (“I’m thinking about my teachers / With guitars, melodies and chord sequences / I thank you all here tonight / Without your choruses / Those thoughts-dreams, words and honesty / Well I wouldn’t know myself tonight”).
‘Everybody Comes from Something’ is a reminder that nobody comes from “nothing” or has any less worth due to their background: “Billy is a drinker from Glasgow way / Goes to work each morning and the pub everyday / And as he gets older what stays with him / Is when people say you come from nothing,” O’Hare tells us, the message coming through loud and clear on the chorus. “I don’t come from nothing / Everybody comes from something”. ‘Another Sunday Comes’ is a gentle, folk driven affair that feels like a love letter to the kind of lazy childhood Sundays that seem all the rosier with the benefit of adult hindsight.
‘William Ralph Dean’, with its thumping base, is the tale of Merseyside footballer Dixie Dean who, despite humble beginnings, would play for the England national team in the 1920s and 30s. ‘The Progressive Priest’ is another track also based around the life of a real person, in this case Edward Daly, a Roman Catholic priest who caught world wide attention when he was seen waving a blood stained handkerchief as he escorted a group of men carrying a fatally wounded protester during the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre of January 1972 (“You’re one in a million / That’s what you are / One in a million there / Behind a burned out car,” laments O’Hare).
‘Dandy Pat’ is a Celtic tinged, thoroughly catchy ode to poor Irish immigrant Patrick Byrne who came to Liverpool in 1863 and despite the odds, became a great force for social change in the city. “Little victories can’t be denied / Little victories are yours and mine,” insists O’Hare on the buoyantly life affirming ‘Little Victories’, a reminder that even the smallest of steps count.
‘Have You Ever Heard (Lou Reed Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ asks O’Hare on the final track. “Have you ever stood / Down by the Hudson River? / Have you ever felt / That east wind blow?” he poses on the song’s opening, and while it’s true most listeners probably haven’t, the joy of great music is that it can take you there. Indeed, whether you’ve been to Merseyside or not, O’Hare’s songs will take you there, proving that while ‘Straight Lines’ marks ten years and numerous accomplishments for him as Only Child, he has plenty more stories to tell and places to take you to.