Rutland’s Paul McClure is a talented singer-songwriter who on his latest album ‘Market Town‘ shows a particular affinity for the love-lorn and melody heavy stylings of the likes of Ron Sexsmith. Opener ‘The Morning and My Love‘ is a classic slow piano ballad, full of yearning in both the lyrics and McClure’s emotion wracked vocal as he sings of “Where Venus finds no place to lay her head and loneliness poisons the passion in our hearts“. It’s love of the eternal flame variety – and is a fitting start to an album that frequently draws on relationships and family.
‘Market Town‘ picks up the pace as a mid-tempo rock song, throwing in allusions to other songs all over the place, it has Paul McClure celebrating the acceptance of life in an unremarkable market town “here I wish myself here, here in this market town, this market town, just a market town with nothing going down” after years of searching “for a place you can’t find.” ‘Daddy Will you Hold My Hand‘ sits comfortably in the same vein of surprised contentment – here it’s those precious brief years when a man can actually, really, be a hero that are caught on this folky mixture of guitar and piano. ‘This must be what they mean‘ takes a glance at the touring side of the musician’s life – the endless glamour of waking up on yet another floor, compared to the comforts of home where there’s “you and me and our love makes three.” But upbeat and stabbed through with harmonica as it is it doesn’t actually made it sound like so bad an existence.
On a couple of songs Paul McClure shows a lighter side, almost tongue-in-cheek on the pop-calypso tinged ‘A Long Long Time Ago‘, and these don’t shine quite as well as when he takes everything seriously – the epic ‘Sing With Me‘ rises to anthemic proportions over eight minutes and is rightly an album highlight with banks of vocals lending a majesty to this sense of a defeated man struggling on – and promising nothing concrete. It’s the antithesis of the positive family and home feel of much of the rest of the album, and the grit in the vocal and the initial simple guitar arrangement are dramatically appealing. It really should have been the end of the album, rather than the five minute throwaway feeling of actual closer ‘Grandad’s Pants.‘ As a whole ‘Market Town‘ is a mixed bag, when it’s good it’s really good, and ‘Sing With Me‘ defines that but drops in quality elsewhere give it a bitty feel overall.