As Fatea followers with long memories will be aware I have been an enthusiastic follower of the songwriting, singing and guitar playing of this County Down raised, but now Tyne Valley based, artist for many years.
This enthusiasm was rekindled by the release of Gareth's eighth solo CD - his first since 2014 - which contains eleven songs, the majority of which are his own compositions. I am pleased to report that 'The Beauty & The Trouble' features the GDJ staples of thoughtful lyrics, memorable melodies, sublime vocals and entrancing guitar patterns. There is also tasteful accompaniment from Graeme Duffin (vocals / bass), David Lyon (piano) and Sandy Jones (percussion / programming).
I have to confess that I made the mistake of originally playing the CD in the car on a motorway journey where the subtlety of the songs and sounds were somewhat lost. Once listened to in a more conducive setting, however, the quality of the music and production shone through as it has done in all Gareth's previous work.
Overall there is a pleasing cohesion to the whole album which could, in less skilled hands, highlight the limited contrast in tempo and textures between tracks that I had experienced on that first hearing. On more focussed listening, however, personal favourites soon emerged including the collaboration with poet Stewart Henderson, 'The Luminous Years', the anti - isolationist 'Alternative' and 'This World of Mine' - a tribute to one of my favourite painters Norman Cornish whose marvellous depictions of mining life are reflected in the song. As I wrote those previous words I was listening to 'Kielder', a paean to that northern landscape and I realised I had to add that to my list!
An excellent version of Woody Guthrie's 'Pastures and Plenty' and a setting of Yeats' 'Rosa Mundi' (the melody of which has more than a passing resemblance to the melody of 'Lord Franklin' but that is no bad thing in my book) are also very much worthy of mention.
If you have enjoyed any of Gareth's previous CDs then you will have no need to hesitate on acquiring this one. If you are new to his music then I would urge you to give it a try but also make sure you investigate his earlier work.
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