Paul Creane and The Changing Man Band (regulars and brothers Culian and Lorcan Byrne on bass and drums as well as a revolving-door of musicians including multi-instrumentalist Footzy Byrne) are from Wexford, south-east Ireland. The Clock is their second album, a fine combination of Celtic traditions and a medley of America’s Country, Bluegrass and alternative genres. The twelve songs on offer are a combination of carefully crafted tracks written and recorded over the space of a year, with lyrics offering an often grim, bottom-of-the-glass view of the world in contradiction to the largely upbeat music.
The sense of only just controlled abandon in the acappella introduction to In Lieu Of You, a song that began as a short story, or the almost 12-bar riff throughout Breeze, suggests the smooth production values of the album are straining to be let off the leash in a live setting. The production allows the listener to relax into the album straight away, but there are plenty of layers to peel away at as you become more familiar with it. Witness the smooth groove of opener Low Ground, a gentle mid-tempo slice of Americana that also introduces the beautiful timbre of Creane’s voice. It’s a mellow instrument that sinks and soars in unison with the band and is particularly effective on the aforementioned Breeze with its poetic ‘I want to be a drum beat…’ imagery and the closing tracks, where his velvet bass tones add the necessary solemnity to proceedings.
By fourth track Come Drink With Me, a ballad that floats on banjo through minor key changes, the references to drink begin to ramp up. The first of three slower numbers that ends with the muted brass and brushed percussion of Sorry For The Sadness, the change of pace prove Creane and the band have several gears they can call on to move through and the variety of styles and tempo maintain your engagement throughout. The coming of age story She Was An Adventure has a great arrangement and a lovely melody with words that make you smile and, if you’re of a certain vintage, nod at the memories evoked.
Baby I’m Down (But I’m Getting Up) adds some nice slide guitar, whilst the simple piano of I’ll Be Drinkin’ In The Morning (And You’ll Be Dead) not only continues the liquid theme but must be one of the most morose song titles I’ve ever heard; it might sound like a blast from the Nashville past (My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, And I Sure Do Miss Him?) but is in fact another showcase for Creane’s silky voice. Personal favourite Woman In My Hometown has a Ryan Adams feel circa Strangers Almanac, ‘Woman in my hometown / She’s been running through my mind for days / Swimming through my bloodstream / As if she was the reason my heart beats’, and the closer You Always Know What You’ve Done brings the album to a stately end.
Creane employs a Bukowski quote to put The Clock in context; ‘There is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock’. As a summary of the dangers encountered throughout a life of living, loving and losing it prepares you for the album’s content, but not for the excellent way in which it is delivered, twelve songs that remind you life should be filled to the brim with experiences, even when they’re not all Lottery wins.
Review by: Paul Woodgate
The Clock is out now.