Our Man In The Field “Gold On The Horizon”

In The Field Recordings, 2023

Highly anticipated sophomore album delivers on all the promise of their debut.

artwork for Our Man In The Field album "Gold On The Horizon"It is now over three years since Our Man In The Field’s debut album ‘Company Of Strangers’, created such a positive impact both here at AUK as well as across the broader musical landscape. A string of live performances playing support for the likes of Jerry Joseph and The Delines followed by a triumphant headline tour last year further cemented the band’s position as one of the most exciting and talked about acts currently on the Americana scene. It is therefore with little surprise that the pending release of their sophomore album ‘Gold On The Horizon’, has generated such anticipation and excitement. This new offering has been recorded in Portland, Oregon under the watchful eye of Producer Tucker Martine who has previously worked with some of the cream of the Americana music genre including such luminaries as The Jayhawks, First Aid Kit, My Morning Jacket, and Rosanne Cash, which along with a strong supporting cast of musicians immediately suggests that things have come along way since the release of the debut album, musically as well geographically.

The album opens with ‘Feel Good’, a track that those fortunate enough to have caught the band live over the last twelve months will already be familiar with, telling the story of how Ellis was ripped off by a former acting agent. However, this studio version lifts the song to a new level with Ellis’ soulful narrative superbly supported by the percussive pulse of the rhythm section, the gorgeous harmonic chants from the Dimpker brother along with the brass accompaniment during the middle eight all helping to empower this track to anthemic proportions. A truly wonderful start to proceedings. This is followed by another familiar number ‘Come Back To Me’, and the story of reconnecting with an old school friend after lockdown. Here the accompaniment is more subtle, gently caressing the lyrical intimacy of Ellis’ thematic tale of real people during current times. Ellis has established himself as one of the finest writers of recent years with a songcraft that takes his collection of life’s observations and infuse them with a keen eye and a poet’s soul whilst still avoiding the melodramatic, focusing rather on being the storyteller than being the focus of the story. The inspiration for track three ‘L’Etranger’, comes from the debut novel of French author Albert Camus of which Ellis studied for French ‘A’ level and focuses on the power of becoming self-reliant. Here again the song has a strong percussive beat this time created by a National Steel guitar put through a drum loop as Ellis’ sings “(in the) company of strangers I’m as happy as can be”, cleverly supplying a connection to the debut release. A line from the following track ‘Silver Lining’, supplies this album’s title with Ellis’ vocal delivery revealing a slight hint of Bob Dylan with shades of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’, the arrangement consisting of harmonica and organ all underscored by Henry Senior’s pedal steel that is responsible for so much of the albums wonderful atmospheric intensity. The quality dips slightly through the middle section where track five ‘Great White Hope’, feels slightly vague and disjointed while ‘Go Easy’, despite its laid-back infectious chorus and meritorious subject matter feels to simplistic, lacking the same level of lyrical depth and subtle insight achieved on earlier numbers.

Ellis’ strength lies in his ability to narrate the stories of ordinary people in their everyday lives, his unassuming approach disguising an empathetic awareness of the world around him, his delivery, like the best roving reporters high on content, less on emotion, whilst never losing the human touch. The following two tracks ‘Glad To See You’, and ‘Last Dance’, are both fine example of those attributes, the first a song he regular dedicates to the NHS during live performances, the second about some friends’ traumatic break up, his heartfelt narrative like a fly on the wall witnessing the pain without ever casting blame all played against a jaunty arrangement of fiddle and harmonica to create the perfect juxtaposition. The penultimate track ‘The Road (Interlude)’, is an atmospheric instrumental of which the song itself will appear as a bonus track on the second run of the album, which in truth one can’t help but find a little perplexing. However the final number ‘Long Forgotten’, sees order restored with Ellis returning to his favourite role as the outsider. Outside of the law, of love, of live, always looking in or back at what he either lost or never had while a collage of sound created by the pedal steel, piano, synth drone and female harmonies attempts to bring solace as it wraps itself around this desolate soul.

With ‘Gold On The Horizon’, Our Man In The Field have delivered on the promise of their debut producing a body of work that emphasises a newfound confidence and maturity whilst still retaining the humility and intimacy that garnered them much of their early plaudits. Credit must also go to Martine along with multi-instrumentalist Luke Ydstie who together have helped to create a musical landscape, rich in variety that at no time ever sounds cluttered but in most cases acts as the perfect conduit for Ellis’ cinematic and ruminative narratives. Most of all this new album emphasises that Alex Ellis is clearly one of the finest songwriters to emerge on the Americana music scene for many a year.

8/10
8/10

About Graeme Tait 102 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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