Enjoyable, narrative songs, just lacking that something extra in a year of great music.
Orion Walsh has released seven albums over the last decade. His press assures us that ‘So Many Places to See’ is “brimming with vivid storytelling, this is truly a mature step forward for this well-travelled troubadour.”
Opening with the title song, this, and the following ‘Hurricane Hanna’ are dominated by a Dylan style harmonica, leaving the concern that this will be a theme throughout the album. Fortunately, by the third song, London Eye, the harmonica is back in its case. The “storytelling” quote is apt, his lyrics are highly narrative, and using a variety of duet partners on several songs makes a good counterpoint to his own voice. Ashley Buck on the song ‘So Many Places to See’ is the most effective. Walsh’s own voice can be a bit one dimensional, at times he sounds for all the world like 70s singer Dean Friedman, another narrative singer. The songs themselves are interesting and are worth listening to carefully. Some of the wordplay is very clever. There are a couple of missteps, ‘Song for John Denver’ is rather bland, and ‘Sleeping In’ seems to just stop rather than any proper ending.
‘Barista Love Song’ is an amusing tale of falling for a coffee maker. It also divides the album in two. Both that and the next song, ‘Slaves to Screens’ are driven by upbeat Ukulele lines. ‘Humming in the New Year’ is his pandemic song. “Another year has come and gone. This one was hard on everyone”. True enough, but there have been more thoughtful meditations on 2020. It is a song that grows on you after a few plays so the simple sentiment may be best after all. The closer of this short album ‘Foreigner’ is another slower song.
Setting up the running order so that two very similar songs follow each other does tend to give the album a disjointed feel, almost as though you are listening to five singles rather than a complete album. A different song order would have made a lot of difference to highlighting the strongest songs. ‘So Many Places to See’ is one of those records that you can play quite happily feel you have enjoyed it, but struggle to pick out anything particularly memorable. He mentions that several of his songs have been used in TV and films. It’s easy to see why – they are good songs, well played, and pleasantly sung, but they are not going to detract from the action on the screen.