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Ben Glover Ben Glover
Album: Shorebound
Label: Proper
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.benglover.co.uk

His seventh album marks a shift from Glover's previous releases, especially the more musically reflective and intimate The Emigrant, in that it paints from a broader sonic palette, but also in that, with two exceptions, it's a collection of collaborations, both in terms of writing and performing. It's an impressive list that confirms both how well-connected he's become over the course of his career and the sort of respect he's gained among his fellow singer-songwriters. After a brace of albums concerned with a search for direction and identity, this also finds him more at ease with himself and the journey he's on, assured in an internal sense of belonging.

Co-produced by and featuring Neilson Hubbard on drums and assorted keys, it's a small but solid line up of musicians that also include guitarists Kris Donegan and Juan Solorzana with Barry Walsh on piano and cellist Chelsea McGough. The first collaboration comes with co-writer Amy Speace harmonising on the rhythmic mid-tempo lope of 'What You Love Will Break Your Heart', a reminder that love can bring you to your knees and tear you apart as well as make you whole.

Nashville-based rising star songwriter Angel Snow is next up, duetting on the dreamily lovely, cello-coloured 'A Wound That Seeks The Arrow' with its lines about how "I don't have to justify/The fire falling from my sky/Don't need to give you reasons/For what I do and who I am." A song about coming home and putting down roots, the shuffling drums, strummed 'Northern Stars' with its gently jogging chorus melody takes him back to Ireland for a collaboration with Belfast's Steve Scullion, better known as Malojian, and Morne singer-songwriter Matt McGinn. The latter has previously toured with Kim Richey who makes her appearance here on the organ underpinned 'Ride The River', a gently rolling country number about upping anchor, cutting losses and ties and heading out into an unknown tomorrow.

Written in 2015 while they were touring together, 'Catbird Seat' teams him with Mary Gauthier for a smoky, bluesy prowl sung in hushed conspiratorial tones with a resonator guitar solo and fine interplay between Donegan and Solorzano, the title an idiomatic phrase about having the upper hand (though it also happens to be the name of a Nashville café) although the lyrics paint a darker image of a killer on the loose.

Glover first registered on many people's radar with his Grammy-winning co-write of 'Blackbirds' with Gretchen Peters and the pair are together again here for the six-minute 'Dancing With The Beast' (which again forms the title of Peters' new album), a slow, brooding gradually swelling, cello enhanced excursion into a dark dysfunctional controlling and abusive relationship, Glover retaining the male pronouns as he sings "It isn't that he doesn't care about me/If anything it's that he cares too much/It's only that he wants the best for me/It's only that I don't try hard enough."

Hubbard steps up to the mark for the end of tether strained relationship 'Song For The Fighting', the emotional moods shaded by cello, keyboards swirls and steady march beat drums, the pair taking a call and response approach on the lines "How much longer can this fight last?/Tell me what it is you believe in/How much stronger can I be than that?/Tell me what it is you believe in", the repeated line also forming the soaring chorus break.

Representing the album's surging rock n roll moment, written and performed in tandem with Deacon Blue's Ricky Ross 'Wildfire' is a joyously celebration of a relationship that's worth all the knocks and fights ("We're going to rage, we're going to burn

We're going to spread like wildfire") that takes an unexpected brief slower swerve into an almost cosmic psychedelic bridge before picking the energy back up.

Unless you happen to live in Northern Ireland, Canada or Nashville and have an interest in seeking out lesser-known names, you'll likely not have heard of Belfast singer-songwriter Anthony Toner who shares credits on the slow acoustic amble of 'My Shipwrecked Friend' with its slide guitar work, a song of loss and slipping "into the darkness too soon."

The final collaboration comes from the award-winning Robert Vincent, the simply strummed 'Keeper Of My Heart' finding peace and calm a slow swaying song about finding a love that is a steadfast foundation in your life. The remaining two tracks are both solo Glover compositions, the acoustic, cello caressed title track's few and simple lyrics echoing the previous number's sentiments ("She is the open arms of the harbor/She is the warmth of the home hearth fire") and the sublime 'Kindness', a simple voice and guitar benediction of finding peace and calm of the same tradition and hue as the famous Irish blessing 'may the road rise up to meet you' as, in warm, brushed tones he sings "May you know kindness/May kindness know you."

In talking about audiences' reactions to the song he says he realized how important it is for the music we make to offer light as it is this to which souls respond. Ben Glover is luminescent.

Mike Davies