Brilliant guitar aligned to insightful lyrics equates to a fine piece of Americana.
Recording an album in the middle of a pandemic has, unsurprisingly, proved a challenge for many an artist over the last couple of years. Whilst they all have a tale to tell about how they went about overcoming this little hurdle, the common denominator has been the desire to just get the job done and get their music out there. For ‘Short Stories’ Richard Townend and The Mighty Bosscats have found their way through recording remotely from home setups in London, Manchester and err, Moscow.
While employing Russian musicians may seem a bit strange even for these strangest of times the fact that the two musicians, Anton Ilyan on keys and Dennis Nazarov on bass, played on last years ‘Live in Moscow’ release then it all starts to make a bit more sense.
The fact that this is album number thirteen is proof alone that Townend warrants the ‘prolific’ descriptor that tends to attach itself to the man. Yes, the man is a storyteller, and the subject range here is a broad one with lyrics that are fundamentally integral to his songs but, and it is a big but, it is Townend’s guitar work that stands out. Through a myriad of variations in pace and style, from rockier tracks such as opener ‘Got to Pay Your Dues’, a homage to gigging musicians striving patiently for the dream, the soft shoe shuffle of ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ or the bluesy refrain of ‘Rambling Radio’ which takes aim at extreme radio jocks stirring up bad vibes, the guitar work is something to behold.
Quick fade-outs do not exist for Townend. On a number of tracks, lyrics put to bed, the guitar takes over and we are treated to lengthy solos. These never feel over-indulgent. Rather, they always add new layers of warmth and intricacy, turning good songs into memorable ones. This guitar work, aligned with song lyrics that pull no punches, is a winning combination.
Topically, on the back of Cop26, how prescient for instance is ‘Stupidity of Man’? “And we never seem to learn, try the patience of nature’s land and sea, you pray to your god whoever that may be, pray for man’s stupidity.” Meanwhile’ on ‘Parkland’, Townend turns his focus to the 2018 US high school shooting in Florida at that school where another 17 innocents were added to a seemingly endless roll call of victims.
‘Short Stories’ is a very good album with intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics and some brilliant guitar work to boot. What’s not too like?