Hirsute Hollywood heartthrob Ashton Kutcher seems an unlikely champion of Scouse soul-folk, but when the actor chanced upon the music of Liverpool-born strummer Alex Highton, he took to Twitter to register his approval. Spurred on by that – and the influx of new fans it brought – Highton raised the cash (via Sellaband) to record his debut album Woodditton Wives Club.
Woodditton Wives Club pre-Kutcher was recorded on one mic in a garage in rural Cambridgeshire, where Highton headed after losing his job in London to become a full time stay at home dad.
The more polished version retains a heartfelt simplicity but employs brass and strings to flesh out the dynamic of his unadorned but powerfully direct guitar arrangements. Highton uses his own lilting accent to weave tales of real people in an engaging manner. The mood shifts effortlessly from gentle observation to brutal reveal, but in a way that provides coherency and a sense of narrative conflict.
In essence Woodditton Wives Club documents Highton’s journey from the city to the country, exploring basic questions about the human condition along the way. The hypnotic Stupid borrows a bar or two of the chorus from Python Lee Jackson’s In A Broken Dream but gets away with it through a clever interplay of melodic ideas, and some disarmingly frank lyrics that deal with the fall-out of a family hit by alcohol and drug problems.
Oh shut up you stupid git
Your life it is my one regret
Your teachers all think you’re thick
I’m not surprised they think you’re sick
I really ain’t got time for this
I’ve got to go out on the piss
A Song For Someone is a poignant reflection on love and achievement, straight out of the Beatles’ songbook. Village Life provides a thoughtful change of pace, while The Sweet Taste of Defeat examines the nature of blame and regret. The gently meandering Little Rocks closes the album, offering a satisfying epilogue of sorts:
Don’t you ever think that I could step out without you
We are just little rocks spinning around and about you
Highton’s ‘spinning around‘ is a wonderfully fresh and perceptive look at a world many of us will recognise.
Wed 1 Feb 7:30 PM The Slaughtered Lamb, London
Fri 24 Feb 7:30 PM King’s Place, London