A Wretched Sinner's Song - Songdog Album Review
Reflective + confessional + emotive + imaginative + poetic = masterpiece.
It may sound profound, but this is THE most beautiful album I've ever heard, despite its sad overtones.
Let me introduce you to Songdog's A Wretched Sinner's Song. Songdog is the brainchild of Welshman Lyndon Morgans, long-time relocated to London. This is the band's fourth album following 2005s critically acclaimed The Time Of Summer Lightning, and from all accounts, their best to date. To my ears, musically, it rings of Mike Scott's Waterboys late period. The quality of songs is quite breathtaking, provided by Morgans (vocals / acoustic guitar) Welshman Karl Woodward (electric guitar / keys / harmonica / banjo / mandolin) and Dundee's Dave Paterson (accordion / drums / tables / keys) and others.It's not a pop album per se, but one that could be considered a musos album. I suggest doing a few rotations initially, to enjoy the mournfully-tinged tunes. Then get stuck into the poetry in motion. You'll be back for more, guaranteed. For the record, Morgans' biog cites a love of literature: a playwright and Samuel Beckett obsessive, which probably accounts for this wordy collection spanning 27 tracks under Act 1 : Love Lust and Act 2 : Love Lost. Because of the two acts, it does smack of musical theatre or 'concept album'. In a nutshell, it's about drifters, drunks, psychotics, sad loners and dreamers. In an exclusive interview, Morgans revealed, "I didn't start with the idea of any concept in mind, I just wrote the songs over a two-year period and they just happened to be about the things I always write about – love, lust, betrayal, disappointment, nostalgia, failure and so on, and only after they were recorded and mixed did the idea of Love Lust / Love Lost occur."
According to Morgans, the characters are composites of people he knows, has known, heard or read about, a bit of himself and his imagination. The 'devil' pops up quite a bit too, as you'll find out.
It begins with gripping emotional Ruben's Tattoo, the story of a mermaid tattoo longing to go to sea. It sucks you in immediately, set to a gypsy-like musical template. Morgans' emotional singing is instantly engaging, making you want to seek out more, which is Crown Of Thorns, a tune he'd stored since 10 years ago. This nifty melancholic ballad is essentially about a guy losing his babe to a rock singer at a gig. He tries to hold her back but, "But she heads for the back, up by the sound desk somewhere….She's going backstage to meet the band." Jewel in a very large crown is Owls. Satan falls in love with a human, which set in the valleys of South Wales. The tale unfolds to some Greek-like music, and it's breathtaking. Jaunty A Prayer To Idols, featuring accordion and mandolin, has flashes of French influences texturising the story of lost love, while Morgans years for his youth. References include the CD packshot picture of a local pond in his native Blackwood where his girlfriend, "… swam like a mermaid right round Keeper's Pond."
Opening Love Lost, they give a big nod to Americana. The gorgeous Pilgrim Hill bursts to a cool shuffle with reflective lyrics harking back to Morgans' favourite things: second -hand book stores, NME, glam rock, dusk, and snow. She Lets Me In By The Back Door is Morgans' favourite here. It's a self-mocking song with sweeping strings, acoustic guitar and occasional piano - "She saw the picture in my passport, we both laughed at my moustache." After Owls, Just Another Night In Limbo comes as the second best song here. Morgans digs deep, touching on a Dylan / Scott vocal. It plods quietly, broken by bursts of harmonica, stick shuffles and Nick Kacal's understated double bass. After several attempts over the years, Morgans finally nails one of his earliest songs – Montparnasse, an area on the left-bank of the Seine in Paris, where he's longed to live. A haunting piano arrangement by Sean Hargreaves adds to the soured visit, after which the lovers split on arriving home.
All in all, A Wretched Sinner's Song is a pretty loaded album, with a deep sense of loss. Amongst it, there's also a sense of playfulness, presumably aided by that 'little devil' on his shoulder.
From start to finish it took two and a half years. It's been worth the wait.
File under : Timeless classic.
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