Paul Cook and The Chronicles – Volume 1
I don’t usually bother too much with acoustic singer-songwriter types – mostly because they tend to be a bit dull and try so hard to strike an emotional chord they forget to actually write good tunes. Not so with this guy. I featured his single ‘Candlelight’ a few days ago because it’s one of the best, most accomplished songs of its type I’ve heard since Damien Rice’s O. After that I received the debut album, Volume 1, which I’m glad to say is up there with Rice’s debut as a stunning and disarming collection of well-written songs.
Volume 1, the first of four Paul Cook and The Chronicles albums in the next 18 months, is nothing special in that it’s full of the usual love-lorn laments and eulogies that blokes with acoustic guitars and delicate sensibilities tend to write. What is special is that on Volume 1 these well worn clichés sound fresh, real and believable.
Opening song ‘Six Places’ sets the tone straight away with Cook recounting his past troubles in love and resolving to not let it happen again: “I’ve been fooled by love / Any trick would do / I’ve been fooled six times by a girl like you… But no more”.
The brilliant ‘Candlelight’ keeps Volume 1 firmly on the love boat – “Oh can you be my guide / And lead me on your strength / Oh to you I confide / And tell everything, everything… Oh can you be my Candlelight / Cus I’ve been so blind…” – which sails along on an emotional tide of strings and delicate electric guitar.
There’s more to Volume 1 than just love lorn sentiments and lush strings though. ‘Bullet Holes’ does a great Iron & Wine impression with its plucked guitars and folky vocals, ‘Permission’ plays with slide guitars and falsettos to great effect and ‘Girl Trouble’ mixes tempos and atmospherics to create a diverting eulogy to the stresses of love, life and everything else.
If there’s a criticism of Volume 1, it’s that in places it drifts a bit close to Heartbeat-soundtrack territory, especially on the overly sweet and prim ‘Guilt’. Thankfully the dramatic ‘Silent Heart’ and frankly brilliant ‘In Doubt And In Deep’ are on hand to rescue the situation.
Like its title, Volume 1 is a straight-forward, unpretentious album that showcases some top drawer song-writing. Bring on Volumes 2, 3 and 4!