First full collection of songs by Liverpool legends are a tonic for the ages.
A year of anything can feel like a long time right now, so ten years really does feel like a world away – but there’s comfort in knowing that some things don’t change in terms of their being reliably there – exhibit A is Liverpool’s The Southbound Attic Band fronted by local musician Barry Jones accompanied by his erstwhile musical partner Ronnie Clark. The band originally bowed into the world in 2008 as a three-piece but within a year became the duo so well known to gig-goers around the city, partly because of their stage presence and partly the songs themselves, which cover a whole range of emotion from laughter to education to that old americana standard of sorrow.
Highlights include the historically set ‘Last Man Standing’ about the battle of Gettysburgh, the rollocking ‘Valparaiso Bound’ from the band’s Wind of Willows concept album, and ‘San Vito 1970’ which has an elegance to it both musically and in its storytelling with its themes of regret and reflection, everything that’s good about SAB in one song. It’s one of Barry Jones’ real skills – he manages to evoke emotion without it coming across at all as mawkish – take ‘The Ballad of George and Maude’ with its opening line “she knews once she saw him that he was the only one, just like Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life” – there’s a universality to his lyrics but also a precision too which never makes them feel trite. Right slap bang middle of the collection of songs is perhaps their best-known ‘Hide the Sausage’, a vignette about a man ordering a takeaway only to find an element missing. It’s ostensibly about the perils of swearing with a lot of swearing in it, and its fame has spread across the Irish Sea and beyond – it’s just a great infectious singalong with such a great punchline to it.
The songs on this set are unfailingly evocative and although many people will only be familiar with them in their live form, part of the magic of this collection is that the essence of them and what makes them so special has been carried into the studio. Anyone who’s heard songs like ‘Howling at the Moon’ or the laugh-out-loud ‘Compromised’ will know that SAB have that rare gift of never making an old song feel tired. It’s a beautiful set of songs – let’s hope there are many more to come.