CD REVIEW – Damian Wilson – Limehouse to Lechlade

Damian Wilson’s latest album, produced by Andrew Holdsworth, is Damian’s first full-length solo album since 2016’s Built For Fighting. It contains 13 original songs and might be Damian’s most eclectic work yet. But that’s no surprise to those who have followed his varied career path.

The genre-defying artist avoids pigeon-holes as the songs on the album range from showstoppers to folk-rock to power pop, with the occasional prog element thrown in.

Northerner that I am, I didn’t know that the title, Limehouse to Lechlade, refers to the navigable length of the River Thames heading upstream from central London to the Cotswolds. We’re told that Damian loved his many years living on river boats, and traveling the River Thames is particularly special to him. Thus we are simply presented with a metaphor for the journey of life.

‘Once We’re Gone’ has an element of show to it, whilst ‘Limehouse to Lechlade’ has a pleasing Del Amitri folk swing. ‘Climbing Frame’ is a great modern songwriting number with memorable melody, good structure, and the necessary uplift in mood. And the clever thing is that Mr Wilson’s voice is chameleonic and suits all three styles, bringing them together as a satisfying whole.

Unsurprising this ability to cross-pollenate the musical silos, a solo career as singer-songwriter, energetic frontman or guest vocalist for Ayreon, Rick Wakeman’s English Rock Ensemble, Threshold and work with Adam Wakeman. He has performed on the most prominent stages in the UK, 2 years as the lead in Les Misérables and supporting tours as diverse as Tony Hadley and Ozzy Osbourne. He even stabbed David Rizzio in the 2018 film ‘Mary Queen of Scots’.

‘Let Me Down Slowly’ has a delightful retro feel, soulful blues with a hint of Motown to boot. Contrast that with the fiery latin jazz of ‘Fire & Ashes’ – viva la difference! And back to a poppy songwriting delight with ‘Picture’ and choppy romp of ‘No Money’. This album isn’t going to tickle anyone’s prog fancies but delight those who enjoy class songwriting, good melodies, well-structured and played songs, and opportunity to wallow in classy music, reflecting on the numerous tip of tongue influences.

Piano and cello suggests a significant mood change with ‘Key To Life’, settling into a cool groove before launching into an upbeat chorus. Am I allowed to mention Take That on this site? Well how about a hint of Gary Barlow showmanship then. ‘Hard To Keep Faith’ is equally lovely, a lightly swung, lightly folk, light touch piano ballad start that takes off to another level with an electric guitar solo. A nod to the excellent band dynamics and playing on this one. ‘Must We Say Goodnight’ goes full bluegrass swing, slightly melancholic lyrically yet reflectively jolly, with accordion in full support, it ends with a clever change of tempo to a lovely harmonic closing section.

‘It Ends Here’ benefits from a clever horn section, organ backing and noodling guitar, a subtly clever time signature, and a shortness that leaves you wanting.
I can’t work out if ‘Women On My Mind’ has a country twang, possibly due to the gentle slide guitar, but it’s a delightfully understated songwriter’s song.
‘Cornerstone ‘ shows Wilson’s elegiac quality in another liltingly lovely song. Closer ‘Seek for Adventure’ is another songwriter’s dream tune, reflective and comfortingly reassuring.

One word. Lovely.

Tracklisting

1. Once We’re Gone
2. Limehouse To Lechlade
3. Climbing Frame
4. Let Me Down Slowly
5. Fire & Ashes
6. Picture
7. No Money
8. Key To Life
9. Hard To Keep Faith
10. Must We Say Goodnight
11. It Ends Here
12. Women On My Mind
13. Cornerstone

CD/Digital bonus track:
Seek For Adventure (band version)

The album is mastered by Tony Lindgren (Billie Eilish, Opeth, Katatonia) and features a wide range of musicians, 17 in total, including Alex Reeves (Elbow), Lee Pomeroy (ELO), Michael Buckley (Glen Hansard) and Chris Hill (Jamie Cullum).

Band Links
http://damianwilson.bandcamp.com/

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