Paul J. Openshaw
Album: The Potting Shed
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

Say hello to this Dorset-based singer/songwriter/guitarist, also cordially known as Granddad Paul. In last year’s UK Songwriting Contest, no fewer than three of his songs reached the semi-finals, while another (the gently optimistic Maybe Love, which appears on this, Paul’s second full-length CD) was commended.

Once you’ve greeted Paul thus, and shook his hand, you’ll want to spend the next 45 minutes in his company, for it’s like having an everyday conversation with an acquaintance in whose presence you feel comfortable, exchanging common views and sharing genial confidences (tho’ you won’t expect to get too deep or emotional). You know the sort of thing… Things that are of relatively little importance in the grander scheme of things, but which keep life ticking along merrily and habitually make better topics of conversation than getting bogged down in the Big Issues.

The disc’s title number, described as a tale of the unexpected, concerns Paul’s pride and joy therein (a wormery), while another even more bizarre episode in Paul’s family history is recounted on Bucket On His Head (I won’t spoil that one for you!). Other songs depict the trials and tribulations of DIY (and IKEA), and the neighbours, with suitably chummy humour (and doubtless, not an awful lot of bending of the truth!).

I feel more than a hint of the unassuming Jake Thackray styling at times (and that’s a compliment!). Whereas my favourite song here, however, has to be the beautiful Swallow, a melodious response to the local landscape and nature written soon after moving to Dorset. The rest of the songs take the form of tributes: The Morning Brew praises the self-same ritual, a veritable hallowed institution, while Jumping Jimmy Thunder tells of a Weymouth rock ’n’ roll legend; however, the tributes to Geronimo and Michael McCarthy do, I feel, outstay their welcome somewhat. As for the recording, this is nicely bare-bones voice and guitar with no overdubs, retaining a warm bloom to the sound and an intimate clarity – you really don’t need anything more.

David Kidman

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