The appeal of The Beautiful South passed us by somewhat, so it’s hard for us to tell how BS fans will view this rather charming new album from David Rotheray: love it, we expect.
The gist of it is that he spent several decades playing/writing pop tunes that people loved, then sacked it off and went to run a pub in Hull.
Ok so it’s not a pub but The People’s Republic, a bar (on Newland Avenue, Hull). Says its website: “We serve world beers on tap, and play world music on vinyl, all day every day. Only an easy seven minute walk from the local ethylene production plant”. Not lost his sense of humour, then.
So you’ve got a man who can play / write songs that tell bittersweet stories (he co-wrote Don’t Marry Her and Perfect 10, as well as Old Red Eyes Is Back, a song about heavy drinking) running an establishment where people come in and tell their life stories.
Opener The Man Who Faked His Own Life is an instant standout, the story of the boozer who sits in the bar and holds forth on his life (wife, children, school, car, house), except it’s all made up — “his missus never seems to show up / The kids never seem to grow up”.
This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life) seems to be a response to Fairy Tale in New York, the bloke seeing the girl “Clutching her drink like an amputee / She came stumbling through the snow” — both parties are getting together for the festive season only.
Across the album, the music is gentle pop / country, the album made by the clever lyrics, and the vocals of Hull man Mike Greaves, who has a rich, smoky voice that’s good to listen to while sounding like he regularly polishes off “11 tins of Stella and some pickled onion Monster Munch”.
Eleanor McEvoy accompanies him, and the two voices go together well. (She composed the song Only A Woman’s Heart, title track of A Woman’s Heart, the best-selling Irish album in Irish history, says Wikipedia).
Some songs even sound a bit Beautiful South, such as the tight bluesy pop tune Flowers On The Stream.
The lyrics range from those above to the gentle That’s Just For The Tourists, about life, saying it’s mostly unseen (we think) to City Of Culture, a slow jazzy number about his home city (“We got a bus stop where the buses don’t stop / We got a Pound Shop / With a sale on / We got a sad ass donkey / You can all come pin the tail on”), a town where everyone is qualified in boozing gambling, and failing. . . just when he’s got you laughing, the tone changes to a lament for milkless mothers and fatherless men, that more bitter subject becoming the topic of the song.
Entertaining but thoughtful, out on Gypsy Chicken Box Records.