Possibly not the usual kind of thing we might bring, but sometimes roots releases need a bit of a profile, and seeing as it’s seasonal, why not?
December 2021 brings an intimate, seasonal solo release from a songwriter-producer, band name The Little Unsaid but aka John Elliott. Lockdowns permitting he’s been a busy chap recently with a role in Cruise on the West End, releasing and touring a new studio album with his band (‘Lick The Future’s Lips’) and writing and recording this album ‘December Songs’ entirely on his own in London during winter lockdown 2020.
“Bold and different…Joni Mitchell, Roy Harper, a touch of Radiohead….stretches boundaries” The Guardian
You may have seen previous reviews from me and for the last album I called them inventive, intense, creatively diverse (technological meets organic, sadness meets joy, harmony collides with discord) and culturally astute. This time round we get something up close and personal.
Elliott himself says: “I wanted to find simple songs that captured the melancholy of this time of year, but also the cosiness, the closeness, the joy of simple acoustic music in a dimly lit room, and the promise of a different kind of year ahead.”
“Stunning…melancholic brilliance.” The Line of Best Fit
So, contemplating lockkdowns and future uncertainty, The Little Unsaid’s John Elliott borrowed an old guitar and mandolin from a neighbour, set up two microphones in the corner of his flat in South London, and recorded the basis of the album live in just a few days. Working mostly at night, the necessity of not waking the neighbours gave the album its hushed and intimate dynamic.
“Extraordinary music…this is an amazing act” Bob Harris
More Simon and Garfunkel than Radiohead I would suggest (‘Ebb Flow’) and some nice tinges of folk and country (‘Fine World’). A nice Stanley Jordan-esque guitar effect and haunting vocals for ‘Hermit’s Carol’ evoke sitting peacefully by a winter fire with a warm beverage. ‘Sacred Space’ has a Hewardine/Rusby essence and ‘Home Video’ is a delightfully homespun and evocative keyboard effect number. The languid ‘December Sun’ has a bit more of that early S&G or even CSN influence, rising and falling like the referenced sun itself. ‘Family Tree’ trips along in a gentle but lively fashion, lovely finger-picked guitar shapes flitting throughout.
“John Elliott’s music is nothing short of extraordinary and does so much to set atmosphere and add high impact.” Broadway World
‘In Dulci Jubilo’ is given a hauntingly ethereal and ream-laden shape with ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ benefitting from gorgeous guitar and proving how effective a single voice and instrument can be. ‘5am Waltz’ is another hot beverage and log fire number, a slow warm waltzing instrumental before ‘Bodhi Tree’ closes the album, an evocative, heartfelt, dreamily positive number. An album of snippets, yet satisfyingly fulfilling and whole.
The songwriting is strong, and I’ll add my feeling that Boo Hewardine would be well impressed.
1.Ebb & Flow (Yuletide!)
2.Fine World (When You Can Look It In The Eye)
8.In Dulci Jubilo *
9.In The Bleak Midwinter *
Written, Recorded & Produced by John Elliott except *
Artwork John Elliott / Martin Rowsell Simply Marvellous
Piano, Guitars, Vocals, Mandolin, Organ, Keyboards, Percussion, Bass, Programming, Wurlitzer, Ukulele, Glockenspiel, Harmonium, Mandolin.