As if in a dream I drifted into and through this album, the debut by unknown 26-year-old British-South African (currently London-based) singer-songwriter Daniel Gadd. That’s an all too easy reaction, though, for one’s first impression is actually pretty arresting, rather like going back in a time warp and finding your ears are assailed by a guy with a singing voice that’s rather like a higher-register Leonard Cohen, most especially in terms of phrasing, but there’s also shades of early Dylan in there too. All his songs are set to a fairly consistent, medium-tempo mode and a deceptively simple guitar accompaniment. There’s a yearning tone to Daniel’s delivery that belies his years, just as his stylistic simplicity may rather belie the quality and originality of his highly poetic songwriting.
An overwhelming (in the nicest possible way) ambience of gentle, wistful melancholy pervades the whole album; it was recorded by the ocean, in the small fishing village of Kalk Bay near Cape Town, and indeed the sea can be heard in the background of some of the songs, most noticeably the guitar-and-piano-backed penultimate track So Long Old Friend, as good a representative example of Daniel’s writing as you can find and sounding especially Cohen-esque. The Dylan comparison arises more overtly on closing track Someways Down A Highway, complete with harmonica fills and melodically resembling a cross between Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright and Man Of Constant Sorrow. At the close of this track I guarantee you’ll want to return straight back to the start of the CD and re-live the whole beautiful album from the very start with Siri Linn, a love-lost song par excellence with so many overtones of classic early Cohen – and indeed Jackson C. Frank – that I lost count. Following on through second time around, I loved the spare mournful-troubadour ambience of Just Like The Road and Some Time Ago (On A Cold Winter Night), the latter’s rhythm and structure uncannily recalling both Rambleaway and Scarborough Fair yet propelled by the haunted vision conjured in Daniel’s more driven, insistent guitar motifs. The forlorn and reflective Sleep Turns Her Face provides a contrast with the more carefree philosophy of Rolling On, which musically seems to inhabit a niche of folk singersongwriterdom that might have been vacated by Paul Simon in around ’66.
There seems to be very little background information on Daniel – he’s a film composer and scorer by trade, he arrived in London (via music college in Spain) around a year ago, and works as a film composer’s assistant there. But whatever, his music speaks volumes, and sounds like a favourite movie that you want to replay often. I think it will be clear from the above paras that I really rate Daniel’s music on the evidence of this CD; refreshingly unadulterated and lovingly melodious, it sure makes for mesmerising, compelling listening – I played the whole album through three times before moving on to another disc I needed to review…
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