Formerly one half of Rutland duo The Hi and Lo, who contributed a glorious close harmony cover of My Father’s House on the label’s 2012 Nebraska Sessions tribute, Paul McClure’s now flying solo, albeit here with a little labelmates assist from The Redlands Palomino Company’s Alex and Hannah Elton and Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires.
Their contributions aside, one take recordings, Smiling From the Floor Up is very much the one man and a guitar sort of affair you’d expect to hear in the local folk club or the small room in some pub.
Although the melancholic Song 6 (with a clever faltering ‘stumble’ over the guitar lines) was inspired by a Louis Theroux prison interview with an American lifer, the subject matter predominantly revolves around love lost or found. The latter finds particularly excellent expression on Pollyanna, a semi-spoken bluesy number about ‘every barfly’s dream’ with a circling guitar pattern while, graced with some muted slide guitar, the title track’s not only echoes its theme of being taken up and spat out it even virtually repeats the same line about being taken all the way and left there.
While Keep It Together patently nods to Dylan (to the extent of the verses mirroring the melody of To Ramona just as For You hints at I Shall Be Released), a more pertinent comparison (especially on Long Gone Out Of Here with its references to the deaths of Buddy Holly and John Lennon) might be to the worn and wounded sound of Townes Van Zandt.
It’s not all such low key troubadour stuff, though. Any Number You Like (As Long As It’s 4) is a clattery talking blues saloon piano backed stomp singalong that conjures thoughts of a night down the pub with Chas n Dave and, kicking the voice up towards falsetto, Lola-Rose is a ukulele strum number with almost music hall colours, complete with ‘trumpet’ backing vocal.
McClure’s style of music may not be commercially fashionable these days, but, open, honest, warmly melodic and beautifully honed, it’s never going to be without a loyal following.
Review by: Mike Davies
Released on Clubhouse Records, out now
Order via: Amazon