Grabbing your attention from the off "My Own Worst Enemy", a wall of sound driven at pace by the drums of Dave Birbidge it allows lead vocalist Stephen Mitchell to add inward searching lyrics, introspective views of life that seemingly lack hope and purpose. All this is wrapped up as truth without an inch of irony, no pretentiousness here, belted out vocals so strong you'll be singing the chorus by the end.
This is rousing music. Direct and in your face, as the Leylines plough deeply through the folk / punk / roots furrows previously laid down by groups such as the Levellers.
And that similarity is hardly surprising when you consider that "Along The Old Straight Track" was recorded at Metway Studios with the renowned Sean Lakeman and Al Scott who are well known for their work with the aforementioned Brighton based band on the production credits.
If it's a bleak start, then "Sat In A Field" is the antonym, it encompasses hope and that perfect festival day, Summer, Cider, music & friends, a gorgeous up tempo track lifted by Hannah Johns' fiddle and the melodic bass lines courtesy of Pete Fealey. You wish you were there, you remember those occasions in the past when it didn't rain and that feeling of escaping from the real world if only for a while. A cracking song.
"Sorry My Friends" is another fiddle led foot tapping song that should have you swaying in no time at all and dancing soon after. This is really a tight band and their enjoyment and commitment shines through.
"Save Your Soul" changes the pace, acoustic guitar intro from Matt Wilkins compliments the sadness of a song that addresses a one-sided relationship and the extrication from within, it builds and builds over five minutes in a Proclaimers style. I hope that doesn't put anyone off, it shouldn't as the "You're just not the one for me", refrain catches you and you sing along.
"You've Changed" is more electric, almost Kaiser Chief style relationship song, a sharper tone way of saying we're through, I love the lines "And I forgot to say, don't come round our way, not after what you did to us. It's a simple case of trust, of loyalty the council way, and I'll talk to you if I must… but it's not the same anyway". (Mitchell was brought up on a council estate and spent a spell in the army, both have which have undoubtedly helped hone his song writing skills.)
Politics and rebel rousing feature on "Things I Know" and the excellent punk based rant along "Run For Cover" which is a cautionary tale for when "the leaders understand that they can't control the working man".
The album closes with "For Queen And County" an epic tale of a soldiers life and the restrictions on speaking out the truth "And no, you don't have the right to complain because you signed for Queen and country… play the game" It's a fantastic anthemic ballad and a fitting closure to the Leylines debut album.
Except there's that hidden track. "Run Away" accapella, a strum of guitar, an achingly sad fiddle eventually joins in and fades out.
It's over. Done. Except it's not, it's staying in the drive, it's on my iPhone, it's in the car, there's other reviews waiting and for a while that's fine. The Leylines have produced a damn fine debut album that needs to be savoured, it deserves to be played frequently. Very frequently. Enjoy.
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