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Sometimes it's hard to believe how many really talented people are out there under the radar. This is Seattle-based Ian McFeron's sixth album in the last eight years, and it's a really strong piece of work. Recorded in Nashville with producer/guitarist Doug Lancio, thirteen original songs explore moments of emotional truth in a manner that strikes a nice balance between following his muse and finding an audience friendly sound. From the opening bars you will recognise the strong influence of Ryan Adams on his sound and those echoes crop up frequently. However, he also makes me smile with bittersweet love songs that are reminiscent of Dylan at his most tender, has arrangements that are occasionally in the Van Morrison mould and all the while sings in a voice that is kind of high and nasal, very like Jeff Finlin in fact. If you don't know Jeff Finlin, then imagine Dylan on a small dose of helium...
Album opener Shine A Little Light demonstrates the man's ability to write a song that sounds like you've heard it before. Swinging easily into a tune that'll have you singing along in the chorus on first listen, the band settle the mood quickly. It's comfort zone music for those who grew up with early 70s Van Morrison and Dylan or were switched onto the style by Ryan Adams more recently. The organ swirls nicely and the electric guitar break in the middle is fuzzy and edgy whilst remaining restrained. Everything in the arrangement interlaces nicely in a richly satisfying way, leaving a nice warm feeling inside.
Chucking us that as his opener serves as a way of getting us onside before introducing his more individual material. Track 3, Hard Since You've Been Gone, is a much bleaker treatment. With his voice right up front and a bit of echo making him sound like he's crying out in the desert, the drums, keyboard and guitar all sound stark and uncompromising, all crying the pain of the lyric in their own way. The Ballad Of Florentino Ariza gets a similarly stark treatment whilst being built on a blues structure. At the other end of the spectrum, Streetlight Serenade is a sweet and tender love song, made all the sweeter by Alisa Milner's harmony vocals. Every song here is really strong and what really hooked me in was his neat way of expressing a sentiment; simple lines like "Come see me (before you go)" have a way of getting to the nub of the matter with poetic neatness.
Strong songs, beautifully played and beautifully produced, what more could we want from our troubadours? It's a pleasure to have discovered yet another hugely talented artist with his own style, and now there's all that back catalogue to discover.
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