This is a beautiful album to listen to; the kind of thing that if it was made by Alison Krauss would win Grammys, and even though it’s made by two Northern Irish boys it still should!
You don’t often get such nicely produced and arranged country music as Steve Scullion and Jonathan Toman have put together here with their debut album. It’s essential easy-listening country music coming from the same place as Harvest-era Neil Young, James Taylor, the Eagles and John Denver. And to clarify for country music playa-hatas, this is a good thing.
Now, there aren’t any instrumental surprises, but believe it or not that’s not always a negative (an instrumental surprise might involve having a snare drum broken over your head, for example, or a mandolin launched at your groin). Lack of jarring arrangements does not always mean a lack of originality or creativity. In fact, there are some beautifully worked-out arrangements on this record. Banjo, harmonica, pedal steel, dobro, fiddle, strings, melodica, glockenspiel and clarinet all make appearances. These arrangements are detailed but organic and unforced, and seem to emanate naturally from Steve Scullions vocal melodies and the original guitar and banjo arrangements. Everything seems to expand out from this core, with string-based counter-melodies and reinforcing bass and electric guitar lines, and a constantly propulsive banjo picking. It’s all well-tailored and really well judged. And the mix is very, very good thanks to Mudd Wallace. Oh, and I really like the laughter on the Neil Youngesque ‘Life Rolls On’, which sounds like a potential take-wrecker that they decided to keep in (I like stuff like that). And the string counterpoint to Scullion’s plaintively soft voice on ‘Goodnight’ is brilliant.
So all-in-all it’s a beautiful album to listen to. It’s the kind of thing that if it was made by Alison Krauss would win Grammys; and even though it’s made by two Northern Irish boys it still should; and who knows... it still might. Great stuff.
Key Track: ‘Goodnight’