The best non-folk folk album you’ll hear this year.
“I didn’t want to make a soft, samey album,” he said. “I’m not a soft singer. I grew up on Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden and grunge, as well as people like Paul Simon and Sam Cooke. I like dynamic singers and powerful songs – and you can get a lot of power from acoustic instruments.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to describe an artist except in comparison to others. Ritchie’s guitar-and-vocal acoustic songs are core to the album, supported rather than drowned by the production. Now and then then it’s reminicent of Gerry Rafferty, other times there’s a strong hint of Nick Drake and Elbow’s Guy Garvey. Throughout, though, the Water’s Edge features strong songs with plenty of variety.
The Lighthouse is a strong opener, highly atmospheric and not ‘folk’ at all, with the first of Nico Muhly’s string arrangements under it. Shanty is a rockabilly guitar track, ranging far and wide from the sea to the town without a cliché to be heard even with its’ folk roots.
Off your Guard runs through a host of moods, styles and sounds, a folk symphony on its own. Cover It Up had me wondering if there’s such a thing folk-funk. Did somebody mention John Martyn? Words is a dreamy ballad floating on piano strings, more Nick Drake and Robert Wyatt styled vocals, with Ritchie at the top of his game and top of his range. Glorious.
There’s sheer joy in a couple of mid-tempo numbers, Butterfly and the reflective Northern Lights. Lonely Second is the first single taken from the album and the most commercial after The Lighthouse, sure to be the second.
Looking Glass, contains both ghostly, dislocated sounds and reference to a mobile phone in the here and now; this is Ritchie at the waters edge, eventually drifting away on the water. Right There and Then comes as a low-key Jon Martyn tribute. The final Song to Sundays leaves you on a mellow note, a signing-off lovesong.
Despite all the comparisons, this is not a backward-looking, folky, nostalgia ramble for beardy Morris dancers. This is a distinctive, forward looking and sounding collection of mature melodies, superbly composed and arranged. You don’t have to be a folk fan to enjoy Luke Ritchie, just a fan of good songs. SC
Luke Ritchie’s homepage: http://www.lukeritchie.co.uk/
Buy the album on Amazon.