Fresh from his 12 year sojourn with folk orchestra Bellowhead, multi-instrumentalist Jon Boden has re-launched his solo career by re-issuing this his 2006 debut solo album originally released on Soundpost Records, including three previously unavailable bonus tracks, including an interpretation of the Whitney Houston classic 'I Wanna Dance (With Somebody)'.
Listeners unfamiliar with this collection and expecting the full-on energetic vibes of a Bellowhead offering may be surprised by the themes, sounds and emotions reflected here. 'Painted Lady' skilfully combines a sensitive acoustic ambience with raw rock guitar and an array of electronica, its 12 original songs all self-penned and with all instruments - including fiddle, concertina, banjo, guitars and synthesisers - played by Boden, with Fay Hield's vocal backing on one track the only additional contribution.
I'm sure that die-hard fans and completists will lap up this collection, and extol its virtues among themselves, but I don't get it I'm afraid. It's not a folk album by any stretch of the imagination, not that that in itself is a bad thing, but smacks of an artist struggling gainfully to find their rightful pigeon hole and, frankly, failing to do so.
'Get A Little Something' opens the album and sets the tone, with distorted overdriven rock guitar backing over banjo and Tom Waits-ian vocal. As for 'Blue Dress', 'Josephine' and 'True Love' I cannot put it any better than Adrian McNally who wrote upon its original release that these and other tracks "sound like they were written in teenage years and shouldn't have made it past a sixth form band demo". 'Pocketful of Mud' sounds more like a show reel for a multi-effects pedal, and as Alan Partridge might say "It's just noise!"
I could go on, but I suspect that I would not win any friends in doing so. Overall, 'Painted Lady' will please some existing fans, but will not I suspect win any new ones. Jon Boden has much more valuable work than this already in his discography, and will no doubt produce yet more in future, but I would have left this early collection to gather dust on the shelf where it belongs.
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