The Hampshire-born guitarist/singer/songwriter/composer first came to prominence as finalist in the 2003 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards, since which time he’s produced records for other artists and toured both with the trio Rubus and with his own band and for a time in a duo with Tom McConville – and released four albums of his own songs, of which Unfold is the latest. Although ostensibly dedicated to David’s young son Elijah, and is inspired by his arrival into the world, Unfold actually seems to follow in the same mould as its predecessors, in that it contains reflections on life and observations on people and the human condition generally. David’s songs are as ever couched in an accessible musical language that owes less to folk tradition than the contemporary folk of writers like Clive Gregson, whose propensity for creating catchy hooks and choruses has clearly rubbed off on David. There’s a strong, tight-rocking small-band feel to the album too, for all that David plays virtually everything himself (guitars, bass, keyboards, drums), with his wife Shona providing accordion and some sublime supporting vocals. The tougher rock-styled setting of the album’s title track even brings to mind Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits, and includes some neat electric guitar work. All of which demonstrates David’s excellent production skills – and exemplary control of elements and balance within a soundscape, while remaining at the service of the songs.
The songs have a deep sense of social conscience and justice, and a feel for the personal concerns of ordinary people. They may explore the dark times, but the music is upbeat and uplifting with a great pop-sensibility; take the self-explanatorily-titled You Seem To Be So Cold and Dark Times, for instance. Similarly It Would Be Nice To Be Like You, which through its convincingly voiced lyric and supportive slide guitar lines manages to convey an emotional state that’s less self-pitying and more sanguine. Three of Unfold’s tracks (Dear Ann, Mary and Stephen Leaves) turn out to be revisits of songs from David’s first album A List Of Names, now delivered with an even more assured stylistic maturity and some significantly accomplished guitar work that would be the envy of many a fellow-musician yet never draws undue attention to itself (even when David takes the occasional solo).
Even if there’s a feeling of being slightly shortchanged on new material with Unfold, the six new songs are still worth the price of admission and prove David still has plenty to offer.
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