Ha! I don't have a single melodramatic tragic-comedic story about my life to share today, in fact life in Daveyland is thankfully incident free, i'm just getting on with getting on. But that doesn't mean i'm not listening to well told stories of other peoples lives fucking up, no siree, i mean, a boy's gotta get his giggles somewhere. Actually that's a bit of bollocks, i don't really laugh at the sad songs i love so much, rather i just marvel at how these songwriters can be so lucid at a time of emotional duress. As is the case with the much under rated Tom McRae.
Sometimes you can only wonder why some really talented musicians aren't huge stars. In a world where "Talent" and "Idol" TV shows showcase many a young hopeful, who with all the best intent is neither that talented and frankly too fat to be an idol - unless the idol is Buddha, obviously. (See what i did there? I got a fat joke in and i wasn't even trying.)
Anyway back to the music. What can you say about an artist who when he appeared in 2000 was the darling of the British music critics and whose debut album was deemed worthy of a Mercury Award nomination, yet who ten years on isn't a household name?
I first saw him back then, and he was so charming and so self-effacing and his music so wonderful i was convinced he was going to be huge. Instead i found myself find buying his CD's, going to his gigs and playing his music to any of my friends willing to listen to me bang on about him yet again, while his star never really rose.
You have to wonder, why isn't Tom McRae as well known as Susan fucking Boyle?
His new album "The Alphabet of Hurricanes", his fifth, sticks very much to the formula that brought him the early critical acclaim: soft, personal open lyrics, aching, yearning vocals, acoustic accompaniment, add some strings, a banjo, perhaps a mandolin and drums, mix it up a bit and there you have it. It sounds simple and sometimes it is, but most times it works, and when it works really well it's magic. And while some critics seem to be expecting something different from an artist just turned 41, it's worth remembering he's not Madonna, he didn't put out his first record until he was 31, and it's clear listening to "The Alphabet of Hurricanes" his music has matured even if it's not mutated. He does what he does, and he does it well.
My pick of the album is "Summer of John Wayne". Vulnerable, open and as always, beautiful. A song that feels musically in two parts, fitting really as it's inspired by simultaneously watching John Wayne grow old and his relationship go bad. It gets a bit messy with layer upon layer of overlapping instruments in the middle, but even that can't take away from the writing. I find something very personally touching in the lines "But I know you say nothing good lasts forever. Some things burn bright, but burn themselves out to embers." Simply because i don't agree with it, and i guess in the song neither does he.
It's easy to compare what McRae does with David Ford or the better known David Gray, but there just seems something wrong that he's not as well known as them. I certainly think enough of the new album for it to replace Martha Wainwright on repeat play in the car. That's easier said than done let me tell you.
If you don't know him, it would be a mistake to let him pass by you this time.
So here for your listening pleasure i give you "Summer of John Wayne", there's no video, so you'll have to make do with a dodgy live fan recording. The camera work is questionable, but the sound is good.
And if you liked that, also from the new album, and also containing some killer lyric is "Can't Find You". It's the closest of the new work to the wonderful sparse material on his debut album.
Have a listen, then go and buy his stuff and help me, help him become a star.