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Russell JoslinRussell Joslin
Album: Hey Mathematician
Label: 2+2
Tracks: 14

At times rather too obviously in thrall to Seth Lakeman (notably 'Cruel Ministry' and 'Shipwreck'), nevertheless the London-based Joslin affords engaging listening on his often politically-driven songs of the digitalised world around him, here addressing notions of love and dissent. The title's taken from Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian 1921 novel We (an influence on Orwell's 1984) about a mathematician who falls in love and rebels against the totalitarian state, Russell drawing on his own relationship with personal and musical partner Sarah McCaig.

Although several tracks amp things up with heavy electric guitars, keys and drums ('Old Glory', the jaded hipster culture of 'We Are 40 Now'), he's at his best on the more acoustic and restrained numbers, with the stripped back swayingly melodic fingerpicked working man homage 'Billy's Funeral', the overcast love songs 'Water For Blood' featuring Georgina Leach on violin and the cello-coloured duet Shackles and the six-minute guitar intricacy of 'Early Woman' particular standouts.

The urgent strummed miscarriage of justice 'The Blocks of St Lukes', a tribute to Sam Hallam who served seven years for a murder he didn't commit, and the fingerpicked politically defiant 'If I Die A Tory' aren't as lyrically articulate as their thematic concerns, but the spare 'Doves May Fly' provides an effective closing note with its striking line "If the vultures dive then the evil has won. But our meat will fry in the burning sun, as one." Rounded off with a hidden live fingerpicked recording of 'Pittsburgh It Is' from the Harlequins album, it may not all work, but the passion and commitment are undeniable.

Mike Davies