Albums: Seasick Steve proves only the music matters on latest LP Love & Peace
Love & Peace
YOU don't picture Seasick Steve as a hippy, but the cover of his new album features a hand making a peace sign and clutching a flower, and he did spend the 1960s in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for the Summer of Love. The opening and title track, starts with him asking “Hey man, what's the issue here” before suggesting over a classic blues riff “Gotta stop the hatred now, get back to love and peace”. He soon moves on to more traditional blues subjects, as you'd expect from someone from his self-professed hardscrabble back story. Yes, his romantic claims of being of a hobo who spent decades on the road have been undermined by the more prosaic truth – but many artists have played around with their image and invented personas. Ultimately only the music matters, and he's a highly talented guitar player. The best of these songs are strong enough to dispel questions over authenticity. Love & Peace will keep his many fans happy until he can return to the stage, his natural home.
RONAN Keating's new album Twenty Twenty is a glorious trip down memory lane. Lashings of nostalgia are provided courtesy of reworked hits like When You Say Nothing At All, Life Is A Rollercoaster and Lovin' Each Day. The album is a celebration of Keating's 20-year career and singles like Forever Ain't Enough and Little Thing Called Love bear testament to his success as a solo artist. The former Boyzone star has undoubtedly carved out an impressive solo career. Add to that, on this album, duets with Emeli Sande (One Of A Kind), Shania Twain (Forever And Ever, Amen) and Robbie Williams (The Big Goodbye) are poignant and powerful. Only Lovers is a real stand-out and likely to claim a singles chart spot soon enough. If you want a mix of some old favourites and sound new tracks, then this album will be a listening delight for you.
HEART'S Ease, named for the wild pansy found across Europe, heralds the return of one of British folk's true flag-bearers. Age 85, Shirley Collins continues to work within the genre's traditions. The Sussex-born singer first learned Barbara Allen, the Scottish ballad, while at school, and discovered The Christmas Song after it was performed by The Copper Family, an early influence. Another two songs include lyrics by her first husband, Austin John Marshall, a graphic artist and poet who produced several of her albums. But Heart's Ease looks forward as well as back, demonstrated on album closer Crowlink, named after a pathway on the South Downs overlooking the English Channel, a discordant soundscape of hurdy-gurdy, synthesiser and field recordings of birds. Collins returned to music in 2016 with Lodestar, recorded after a 38-year break due to dysphonia, causing involuntary spasms in the voicebox. Four years later, she develops her intimate, enveloping world further.
Courtney Marie Andrews
MUSIC has more than its fair share of heartbreak-inspired albums. Courtney Marie Andrews is aware of that. In the sleeve notes to her new album, Old Flowers, the singer-songwriter, from Phoenix, Arizona, says as much. “There are a million records and songs about that,” she writes. “But I did not lie when writing these songs.” Give thanks that she took the plunge and devoted an entire album to the end of her nine-year relationship. Tired tropes of longing and loss are few and far between. Instead we get songs that capture the breadth of a relationship, for example If I Told, and explore shared hopes and dreams. Carnival Dream, a elegiac ballad that forms the centre point of the record, recalls a nightmare Andrews shared with her ex and works as a nice exemplar for the album in its entirety: sparse, haunting but delivered with poise.
TIMOTHY Gonzales is that rarest of things in music – a self-taught artist with little regard for the complicated structures and norms of the industry. In other words, he's unique. The Safeway is his debut album and comes after a series of singles and EPs illustrating his quirky, catchy style – somewhere between a lo-fi Prince and awkward school-yard rapper. The album is written and produced entirely by north Londoner Jimothy – who adopted the name because it “just sounded nice to my ears” – and spans genres and moods. Sad-boy rap, upbeat hop hop and gleeful pop sounds set songs like Getting Greygoose, Getting To Rob A Bank and Getting To The 70s apart from the norm. And yes, every one of the album's 17 tracks is titled “Getting” something. To the elderly ear, The Safeway sounds like the perfect distillation of everything Gen Z. A surprisingly deep paeon to fashion, drugs and romance in the modern world, it's an album that presents a young artist with a initiative understanding of how pop ticks.