Reflective songs from the indie end of folk, mixed with a bit of country makes for great listening.
Paul Handyside started life in 80s pop band Hurrah! And that influence spills over into his latest album. ‘Loveless Town’ mixes folk, country and indie in about equal measure. Opening with the title song, a stately waltz time piece that sets the tone for the rest of the album. An early highlight ‘Not in my Name’, speaks out against those who would try and dictate the way we think. The Dobro line that carries the song makes this an uplifting protest song. The further into the album you get the deeper the folk influences become. ‘Lord, Show Yourself’ could have been a Byrds song, but ‘Hartley Pit Catastrophe’ detailing a mining accident from 1862 could only have come from the North East of England.
Handyside and bandmates, Dave Porthouse on double bass and melodeon and Rob Tickell, on guitar and dobro draw on lots of areas of music to blend the album’s sounds. Electric guitar, Melodeon, Weissenborn guitar all used to great effect. Tickell was also in the producer’s chair and has created a warm intimate feel. Best title and lyrics award goes to the bluesy ‘Don’t Let Your Heart Be a Hotel’. The Fender Rhodes piano in the background gives a Ray Charles feel that complements Handyside’s voice, which while sounding lived in, never tips over into the sort of sub-Tom Waits gruffness that seems to be this year’s singing flavour. The album closes with the lullaby-like ‘Someone Like You’ on which Handyside seems to be channelling Frank Sinatra.
Despite the many American influences this is an unmistakeably English album. The North East particularly seems to be producing some great music at the moment. Handyside’s website reminds us that he shared a label, kitchenware, with Martin Stephenson in earlier times and that is probably the closest comparison for his voice and writing. The same page drops names as diverse as Billy Bragg and Jeff Buckley as reference points for his songwriting. As is usually the case this sells Handyside short. He is very much his own man as a singer, writer and performer, and ‘Loveless Town’ is a worthy effort that grows better the more it’s played.