self released, 2011, DD album, 39m 22s
£name your price
Although I have written elsewhere about the singularity of the song as an artistic form, and the fallacy of regarding it as merely a fusion of music and poetry, it can be observed that most singer-songwriters focus their efforts more on one aspect of their craft than another. Some are principally instrumentalists, some singers, some emphasise composition, and some are primarily poets. My impression is that Wayne Myers, the ‘lead Conniption’ falls into the last category.
This is not to say that he neglects the music. These are some well crafted arrangements, with that relaxed feel that comes from a group of musicians comfortable in each others’ company and well in command of their musical materials. The style is generally a bluesy, melancholy folk rock, performed with a good sense of space and dynamics, at slow to medium tempos. There are some splendid musicians on this recording, including trumpeter Kevin Davy, who played with Lamb, and guitarist Sean Taylor, whose own Corrugations is one of the best albums I picked up from other performers when I was playing accompanist on the singer-songwriter circuit.
Myers’ voice is an unusual and characterful affair: he covers quite a wide range, and is resonant across it, without ever sounding as though he’s belting it out. He has a soft rasp in the lower register, and he never pushes his vocal chords hard enough to lose the impression of speech, like J.J. Cale (but in a very different way). He manages somehow to be simultaneously laid back and moderately melodramatic in his delivery. I could also hear a hint of Terry Callier in the looseness of his phrasing, and the general vibe of the band.
The songs themselves are musically straightforward, but melodically and lyrically unified, with the contours, phrasing, dynamics and mood always working in accordance with the sense of the lyrics. The mood of the album is quite dark, but humorously so: don’t expect to hear an overt similarity in the sound, but the approach and sensibility reminds me of Leonard Cohen, whose reputation as a miseryguts is pretty much undeserved in my book.
This is not an album that tears up the rulebook; the music here is a vehicle for Myers’ thoughtful and poetically inclined lyrics, and the arrangements are designed to sound pleasant and to support the songs, without drawing too much attention to themselves. The writing is intelligent, direct, funny and big-hearted, and seems to go out of its way not to be clever or flashy. To get this music you really need to listen closely to the lyrics; if you just stick it on the stereo and concentrate on something else, it’ll be an inoffensive bluesy folk-rock sound, which may do it for you, and it may not, but you’ll be missing the point either way. Wayne Myers has some stories to tell you, some of them pretty bizarre, all of them interesting, and all of them deserving of your detailed attention. Think of it as a book as much as a record, and you’ll be able to enjoy this album at its best.