Dan Raza is an English singer-songwriter who has gained considerable acclaim on the live scene both here and across the pond, opening for artists such as Mary Gauthier, Badly Drawn Boy, Cara Dillon and Slaid Cleaves. On his self-titled debut album he lives up to the accolades, particularly those heralding his songwriting abilities. He is undoubtedly magnificent at weaving a tune. Recording with Charlie Hart (Ronnie Lane, Ian Dury, Eric Clapton and Mose Allison) he has produced a record full of songs you’re almost sure you’ve heard before – instant, familiar, comforting and heartfelt.
The opener 40 Miles is the album’s standout track – a delicate, hypnotic and flawlessly delivered song about restlessness and yearning, it has shades of Astral Weeks Van Morrison to it, with a wonderfully understated vocal performance that is full of emotion and restraint. The entrancing Dark Side of the Road evokes Morrison once again, but is most reminiscent of Mike Scott at his melodic peak.
It’s an album about roots and identity; love and forgiveness; about leaving home and going back again. Songs such as Leaving Without You and Home Again convey this with a sense of gentle reflection, while the dark and brooding Rivertown is soulful, folk-blues with gusto. There is some intricate musicianship that won’t be to everyone’s taste – lots of wind instruments and the occasional burst of sax – particularly as the stripped down moments seem to work most effectively. But the heart of the album’s appeal is Raza’s emergence as a songwriter of exceptional talent.
Review by Rachel Devine
Dan Raza is released on Auralee Records (March 12th 2012)