"All On Red" may be the title of this debut offering from "Americana Supergroup" Orphan Colours, along with all of its intentional gambling connotations (as founding member Steve Llewllyn states, "that's essentially what all the music biz career is!"), but what isn't a gamble is when you put top notch musicians and songwriters together in a studio who can come up with as stunning a debut album as you're likely to hear this year, or any year for that matter.
When alt.country band AHAB called it a day, songwriter Llewellyn formed the nascent Orphan Colours with AHAB originator Dave Burn and bassist Graham Knight. Danny & The Champions Of The World drummer Steve Brookes soon joined along with Fred Abbott, formerly lead guitarist with Noah & The Whale. And what a beautiful and melodic noise these boys have produced at first time of asking!
There are no pretensions at all with "All On Red" - this is a great band, playing great songs, and oh how refreshing is that?! No room for histrionic guitar solos, or rambling vocal theatrics here. The songs are most definitely the stars. Melodic, hook-laden slices of Americana that surprise and delight in equal measure at every turn.
The hopefully prophetic "Start Of Something" is big, bold and brassy, grabbing your attention right from the get go with its chunkily insistent beat, punctuated with soaring sax breaks and heavyweight singalong chorus. And this is something that Orphan Colours excel at - finding that groove and feel where the song as an art form touches on commerciality, pressing all the right buttons in terms of listener-friendliness. "High Hopes" continues in that same vein, this time the soaring chorus is carried along on the back of bright chiming guitar work and Steve Brookes' full on rock steady drum beat.
Wherever you look on this album, there are spectacular melodies seeping willfully from the edges. Each song is finely crafted for maximum impact, beautifully produced and not a note wasted or out of place. "Renegade" rides along on the back of Graham Knight's pumping bass line and compelling guitar licks, whilst closing track "Rambling Rose" brings the debut to a fitting climax with a full on harmonic choral barrage, that in truth typifies the album as a complete whole.
You know instinctively when you're listening to an album of rare quality, and "All On Red" is one such case in point. Americana is a wide and often wrongly regarded genre of music, and the fact that many artists are pigeonholed within can be a problem in itself. But with Orphan Colours, there is a big difference. This is a band that musically fall midway between a Petty / Isbell tug of (musical) war. There are the astute lyrical observations, the rock sensibilities AND nods to the commercial appeal aspect that others so often feel unworthy, but that in truth adds another dimension.
"All On Red" isn't a gamble. It's a nailed on certainty. When an album makes you smile, when songs make you sing, and when you're desperate to hear more, then you know it's a winner. It's early in 2018 and if this isn't in any Top 10 "Album Of The Year" lists by close of play December, then all I can say is that this year will have been one phenomenal year for music. Forget about genres, and any pre-conceived notions - this is an album that gets it right, it's as simple as that. And this is just their debut! Lucky us!
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