Album: Thundercloud
Label: Splid
Tracks: 11

Some things in life really are worth waiting for.

The patience of the many enthusiastic fans of West Yorkshire based duo Plumhall has finally been rewarded by the release of their début studio CD 'Thundercloud'. One play through of the eleven pristine tracks (all but one written by the Michelle Plum and Nick Hall) provides the explanation for that long gestation period - this tremendous disc is a veritable tribute to the love and commitment they, and their conspirators in sound, have for making music.

Longer, and indeed almost constant, acquaintance allows further analysis - there is an unmistakable darkness at the heart of the album - ghostly tales ('Uniondale', 'Let Me Sleep') , disconnected lives ('Thundercloud', 'The Space Between', 'Trophy', Boff Whalley's 'Learning How to Talk'), repeated mistakes and overcoming adversity ('10,000 Locks', No Fear), slavery (the hugely energetic 'Never Forget My Name') and the early death of a close friend ('Exit from The Light').

Despite the gravity of these themes, however, the overall impact is in no way depressing but, in fact, the diametrically opposite. The duo's songwriting skills and sincere, note perfect vocal delivery are such that empathy rather than sympathy is evoked on every occasion - the resultant effect is that the listener is compelled to inhabit each story and is positively transformed by the experience. A further attribute of the songs is that they have that rare quality, exhibited only by writers of such stature as Steve Knightley, Jez Lowe and John Tams, of making it impossible to imagine the lyrics being separated from the melodies.

For those like me who are familiar with Plumhall's live performance and think that the songs simply could not get any better the first thing that strikes one is just how the arrangements and production add to the overall impact. Just to choose one track as an example, '10,000 Locks', is given an augmented dimension of poignancy through the introduction of David Hartley's pedal steel, David Crickmore's questioning electric guitar and Gerry McNeice's and Chris Bunyan's well considered supporting bass and drums. Each of the other songs have similar quantities of fairy dust sprinkled over them giving the whole package an aura of consistent high quality and professionalism with which one has come to associate David Crickmore's productions.

I was at first unsure about the love song 'High Rising' being the last track due to its comparatively undramatic thematic material but now it seems so apposite - a final confirmation of the triumph of the heart over the ordeals of an often complex and difficult emotional world.

Surely this CD must now provide the duo with the mainstream recognition that they so undoubtedly deserve? In all of my many years of listening to music I have rarely, if ever, heard a better début and will be very surprised if I shall again.

Joe Grint

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