The new Albany Down “South of the City” disc (produced by Greg Haver) is a bad-mama, rum soaked, spirited vintage patio-party album- full of passion and heat. Stick it on your iPod dock whilst you sip a few barbecue beers.
Title song “South of the city” has a bittersweet butterscotch slide-guitar sound, drenched in oily gutter-slide hazy summer blues. This track feels so close that it makes make you want to strip off your Hawaiian shirt and howl at the harvest moon . The oppressive heat of these sounds and the mosquito bites of the sub-text, together with those muttering Will-o’-the-wisp marsh-born guitars, create a sweat stained blanket of melodic loops that lazily crawl around the landscape like snakes on the prowl in the tangle of a mangrove swamp.
Among the other standout tracks are “Save Me”, whose intro twinkly chimes and draws you into it’s grasp, like a voodoo witch on the lure- before giving you an icy-cool blow-off. An acid-dropping guitar solo is squeezed so dangerously close to your chest that it makes you gasp for breath – then the rhythms and arrangements begin playing havoc with your senses and are as catchy as summer colds. The razor-sharp musicianship creates an ascending order of anguish. “I Won’t wait” is a departure lounge party anthem- a rolling thunder road scorching fist of a track. A lot of riff plays and sentimental lines, but clean guitar sounds are delivered with whip cracking speed and set against a low scuzzy bass- going nowhere in a hurry.
The only cover-song is the Duffy / Booker 12-bar song-book standard “Mercy”, which may be the singalong cheese classic of summers past, but here is another thing altogether. Born insecure and alone. On a ledge. This song creates an eerie feeling of isolation and loss. Angst loaded shiny and glittering arrangements create a fuzzy landscape for the voice of Paul Muir that sounds as lofty as a highborn eagle, lost in flight against the blurry dark and rugged landscape below.
“Jealousy” is a licky, brave spring starter number of pop beats. Styled with the utmost precision and creative percussion from Jonny Bescoby. While “The Train Song” is a short fun-time marvel. Accelerating along a descending track like an out-of-control handcart. And “I Wanna Know” starts with that the nagging bass line from Billy Dedman, creating a soundscape for the precarious yet glittering verse; While sudden shafts of light (provided by Paul Turley on lead guitar) break out across the landscape like startled fish flicking up nervously from bright, yet muddy waters.
The epic conclusion to this album is the honest to goodness track “Without You”, the most satisfying and rewarding end-piece I have heard for a long time.
All-in-all this is a brave, soulful, honest and enjoyable album from a group of hard-working every day rock heroes . A great bluesey deal. Highly recommended.