Steven James Adams: Old Magick

review adams x1 cong

One of the Review Corner’s favourite band stories concerns Steven James Adams’s former group, The Broken Family Band, back when he was merely Steven J Adams.

All the band members had good jobs, so band money was band money only. One night while on tour, they went out for a meal and blew the entire night’s fee on good food and wine. The other bands on the tour were not impressed — their gig money was all they had to live on, and they’d dined on the likes of hot dogs and warm beer. They didn’t have proper jobs (one of the Broken Family Band is a plastic surgeon and one works for a biscuit factory is all we can remember). It’s a great story for any hobby musician, who for once gets the upper hand over “proper” musicians. It perhaps indicates why the BFB’s pleasing alt country with witty lyrics was never bigger. They were good but they didn’t have to try: take or leave it, they don’t at the end of the day care, as they have good jobs and families to worry about.

BFB is now gone but Adams remains and this is his second solo album and in some ways it’s similar to his former band. Downbeat, world-weary tunes with some great one-liners but as a whole the album lacks the urgency of a man whose life will collapse round his ears if he can’t make back the advance from the record company.

It reminded us of our 1916 edition of the Chronicle: it took a lot of work and it’s very good but we want it to sell for personal satisfaction only. (Now on sale in Tesco, £1.25 for 72 pages, a bargain).

Anyway. The album opens with Togetherness, a pleasant tune with Adams’s trademark gentle vocal; it appears to be about someone coming back home, possibly an errant partner (we’re guessing, we’ve got no lyrics) “You are welcome here / You’ve been taken for a ride” it says. King Of the Back Of The Bus laments the loss of youthful enthusiasm in a friend: he or she was the king of the back of the bus but now it’s “just massage music in your house”. The narrator, of course, sees himself differently: “I think I move with the times / Maybe you disagree.”

It’s a gentle album and if you listen to the music alone it’s a bit samey and you need the stories revealed by the lyrics to make it complete, though overall the deadpan presentation combined with Adams’s heart-warming vocals make it appealing.

Adams has in the past written about black magic but we could see little evidence on here, the title and sleeve image aside. (As well as our favourite story, the Broken Family Band produced one of our favourite lyrics: “This house well the sun would come in nearly every day / Now the drapes and the altar and the pentagram get in the way / And there’s blood in the kitchen, and blood in the bathroom / And blood on the sheets and black candles wherever I step … You’re a devil woman / Your heart is black / But your body drives me crazy”).

This is out now: for BFB fans, French Drop sounds most like the old days.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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