Singer-songwriter Luke Ritchie already has touring with Rumer and playing with Hannah Peel on his CV, but is looking to make a splash all by himself with his debut album The Water’s Edge.
Two years in the making seems a lengthy gestation, and it does sound like every note has been pored over. Ritchie’s guitar-and-voice acoustic songs are the album’s core, the melodies eminently hummable and his dominant tenor ranging between Nick Drake tenderness and full-throated outpourings reminiscent of Guy Garvey. Strings are ubiquitous and tend to run against the melody, not simply providing texture, a technique that broadens the overall scope of the music. So the tuneful pleasantness of “Looking Glass”, with a guitar line reminiscent of McCartney’s “Blackbird”, morphs half way into a dreamy sound collage, populated by organ drones, discords and spliced notes. Classical composer Nico Muhly is the album’s arranger-in-chief, and is also credited with composing five of the eleven tracks. But despite the division in song-writing, The Water’s Edge remains seamlessly well-balanced. Emotionally direct lyrics, like those of “Cover it Up”, which talks of ‘believing’ and ‘having faith’ veer dangerously close to the territory of emotional cliché, but these instances are usually checked, on this occasion by the song’s good-time groove; the shakers in the chorus and bluesy piano inflections.
This competent and polished first album is accessible enough to appeal to a wide audience, though Ritchie’s determination to communicate bruised emotional states does mean it strays into less convincing territory, such as the sentimental piano ballad Words. But the simple charm of songs like “Off Your Guard”, which cheekily slips into three-time, or the clever call and-response chorus to “Butterfly”, along with the strength of Ritchie’s melodies, are likely to win him fans and plaudits alike.
The Unplugged Sessions at The Windmill pub in Mayfair: