You know those moments, those rare, wonderful, beautiful moments when something lands in your lap that just makes perfect, peaceful sense? Good, then you'll know just how it feels to hear Roo Panes' second album.
A natural, unforced progression from the politely prepossessing Little Giant, the record stands as a cohesive set of songs simply by not trying too hard to be so. Across the ten tracks Roo expounds his truth in gentle musical settings, as delicate acoustic guitar is augmented by soft piano and restrained string arrangements that manage to pull off the neat trick of sounding both tasteful and compelling.
A native son of Wimborne, Roo is at ease invoking the emotional acuity of Dorset's best-known literary son, Thomas Hardy, in songs that are more readily laced with the turbulent hues of sombre heathland and grave cliff face than the lush tones of rich pasture or the momentous colours of the sea, although they're in there as well.
Summer Thunder wrestles with a rag bag of emotions but nicely showcases the quiet (and by the end not-so quiet) authority in Roo's voice as it shifts through the gears from gentle whisper to rich nearly-baritone and finally a call out that if it isn't quite a stadium voice is surely one that will be done justice in a sizeable natural bowl.
The Original holds a mirror up to whatever the hell is going on in the minds of the self-appointed tastemakers, scene stealers and hot air blowers that bedevil the cultural landscape; while in Paperweights he revels in the freedom found by removing some of the boundaries that any writer can find themselves confined within; and with its elegant arrangements and captivating narrative Vanished Into Everything taps into something deeper, sounding rarefied but never unfamiliar.
These are songs that tell stories that are at once intensely personal but in their honesty touch themes that are universal - sorrow, joy, pain, sweet heartache, longing. Not that the record is in the least bit downbeat, it's far more life affirming than that, tinged with melancholy rather than wallowing in misery. To that extent it plugs into the classic English popular songwriting tradition of Ray Davies, Bowie, Lennon, Morrissey, without sounding anything like any of them. However, if there are comparisons to be be made then perhaps folkier names like Nick Drake, John Martyn and John Cale spring more readily to mind, although I doubt Roo - already notoriously reluctant to acknowledge musical stimuli - would agree; we might just as well add Blake and Turner to Hardy as potential sources of inspiration and see where they get us.
In emphasising the songs rather than the singer, they stand on their own merits with thoughts and feelings to the fore and while Rupert Coulson's temperate production undoubtedly plays its part, Paperweights is a confident assertion of Roo Panes' qualities as a songwriter and performer. There'll be a stack of digital and physical word of mouth about this album, but beyond the chatter Paperweights is first and foremost a record to be listened to.
|Simon Scardanelli: Make Us Happy||Red Sky July: The Truth And The Lie|
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