Shadow Captain “April Moon”

Independent, 2021

Nostalgic and moving, this album is proof that everything old is new again.

‘April Moon’ is the first full album from Shadow Captain, but the man behind the alias – Liverpool singer-songwriter Stuart Todd – is far from inexperienced, having played with multiple bands and released music previously under his Christian name. But with this shadowy project (recorded pre-lockdown but tweaked within the time since), he hopes to step out into the light.

‘Lavender Way’ opens the album, and while it may seem like a lazy comparison for a Liverpool based artist, it’s impossible not to hear echoes of The Beatles in both the melody and the folky storytelling of the lyrics. “It’s rich tea and sympathy / When he recalls a memory / Always feeling life is wearing him down / He wallows in his misery / Without a sense of dignity / Always blames the neighbours getting him down / On Lavender Way,” goes the chorus with a jovial disposition. ‘Clandestine Lover’ strikes a different tone to the track before it, with Todd singing in a lower register and the vibe being altogether more melancholy classic country – pedal steel and all – and less light retro pop. “I’ve been a sinner with another man’s wife / She was a clandestine lover and I paid the price,” Todd bemoans of a failed affair.

“Every friendship must come to an end / So I drink to the death of a friend,” we’re informed mournfully at the beginning of ‘Death of a Friend’, a song written about Stan Ambrose, whose delicate harp playing can be heard on the song in question, adding a touching pathos. ‘The Pan Piper’ is a jaunty and folkish tale of a street musician whose charm wears thin with a pub landlord (“I arrive at the Tavern to settle a score / I spar with the landlord, who lays down the law / If I give him more trouble, he’ll show me the door”). On ‘Jenny and Oliver’, the flat vowels of Todd’s regional accent add an unexpected texture against a strong beat that contrasts the sadness of the lyrics about a past love who has long since moved on (“A part of me longs to be with her / The distance is only a mile / But Jenny’s with Oliver / It cuts like a knife into my heart”).

‘Hey Django’ is a sweet, upbeat love letter to a canine companion and the joy he brings into the world around him, while ‘April Moon’ is a decidedly more haunting reflection on first love. ‘Song for Gideon’ evokes an easy lounge-like melody against lyrics saluting Todd’s friend Gideon Conn: “I want you around for this melody / It’s a dedication to you from me.”

‘Going Solo’ – a song about remaining single and going solo in life as opposed to in a music career – is another upbeat vintage pop-rock standout, with a Yoko Ono name check further adding to the nostalgia and reminding again about those Beatles comparisons (“All my friends have got a Yoko Ono / It winds me up like a yo-yo / When it comes to love I’m minus zero / That’s why I’m happy going solo”).

While perhaps The Beatles and their Mersey Beat counterparts of the 60s do make for an easy comparison to draw here, it remains a comparison that is a badge of honour to wear – and one that takes a chunk of talent to be given.

 

6/10
6/10

About Helen Jones 59 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.

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