Awake Unto is the second mesmerising collection of songs by Rick Redbeard, aka Rick Anthony of cosmic rock magicians The Phantom Band, and comes three years after his delicately poetic solo debut No Selfish Heart (read our review here). Quarried from similar stone to that of Michael Hurley, Leonard Cohen and Bill Callahan and wrapped in layers redolent of Angelo Badalamenti, Awake Unto weaves folk, balladry and filmic impulses into a tapestry of song so deftly detailed the rewards multiply with every listen.
Where his debut trod an uncluttered path, employing little more than Anthony’s burnished baritone, acoustic guitar, piano and violin, Awake Unto brings a far broader spectrum to bear on its heavenly melodicism — banjo, accordion, reversed keyboards, drums, widescreen electric guitar — while still leaving space for the simple formula which lit up its predecessor. There’s a larger pool of contributors here too: Rick’s sister Josephine duets on one song, while a cohort of his Phantom Band colleagues (Duncan Marquiss, Gerry Hart and Iain Stewart; Derek O’ Neill mixing) also manage to join the cèilidh. The family connections continue, with Awake Unto’s vivid artwork supplied by Anthony’s mother.
Following in the wake of two Phantom Band albums – Strange Friend (2014) and Fears Trending (2015), as well as music he wrote for Theresa Moerman’s BAFTA winning documentary ‘The Third Dad’, it’s hardly surprising Awake Unto marks an assured shift in scope, colour and tone from its spartan forerunner. As Rick says: “If No Selfish Heart was a tasteful black and white pencil sketch, Awake Unto gets the crayons out to colour it in.” He’s too modest by half of course, as even the most cursory listen will demonstrate. Awake Unto takes the core elements of Rick’s debut — his towering, mahoganied voice and melodic imagination — and cloaks them in fabrics and hues; elevating them to giddying new heights in the process.
Wild Young Country
In My Wake
The Golden Age
The Night Is All Ours
Field Years Get Friendly (Blood)
What Fine People
Let It Rust
‘Awake Unto’ is released 17th June 2016 on Chemikal Underground