William The Conqueror has stepped up a notch for this album, in the same sense that Rocky Balboa steps up from debt collection to world title contender; we exaggerate a little as the last album Proud Disturber of The Peace was pretty good but this is world class.
We’ve been fans since we saw him at Rode Hall’s Just So a couple of years ago and bought his solo albums — William The Conqueror is the band of singer songwriter Ruarri Joseph. The backstory is that he was born in Edinburgh, lived in New Zealand for a bit and settled in Newquay. He released his debut album, Tales of Grime and Grit, in mid-2007 on Atlantic but quit, complaining he was “an asset, basically like a car tyre.”
He’s got Ethan Johns producing — son of Glyn (Stones, Who) — who has worked with Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne, Rufus Wainwright, the vastly under-rated The Boxer Rebellion and Paolo Nutini.
While the solo / first William The Conqueror albums all contain strong songs there’s a marked difference with this new album, presumably from Johns adding bells and whistles and lifting the sound. At first listen we kept waiting for the standard to drop, but it never did.
Opener Path of the Crow is an immediate standout, a riffy but melodic song with no real chorus but a plaintive and catchy guitar riff. After this upbeat opener Thank Me Later is a slower bluesy/jazz number.
Madness On The Line is not unlike a Wilko-era Feelgood tune, but smoothed out. It opens with kick drum, hi hats and bluesy bass before a cocky guitar riff worthy of Mr Johnson fires up. The song features Lee Brilleaux-style harmonica, too. Another song with no real change for a chorus, though it builds nicely. The Burden slows it all down and is a lovely, gentle song.
The title track follows and it’s a bit of a monster, apparently laid in one take with a loping bass line and building up then falling again.
We’re only half way through, but it’s all good. This is a bluesy pop/rock album for grown-ups who like their music to be thoughtful while being entertaining — we think of Justin Curry here. Good stuff. Go and buy it.
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