The Mining Co. – Mountain Fires
Self Released – 29 September 2017
Mountain Fires is a swift follow-up to the British one-man band’s 2016 Burning Sun and The Atomic Powers Within debut, recorded in the same Spanish studio. It finds the woozily deep dusty-voiced Michael Gallagher in a nostalgic and reflective mood for his Americana-stained songs. Opening in a spare, slowly gathering form with Julie’s Song (written for his now wife) it picks up pace and instrumentation with Closer, another relationship number, the semi-spoken delivery and claustrophobic atmosphere reminiscent of The Walkabouts. By contrast, it’s Glen Campbell who comes to mind as the strings sweep in for the airy title track. They hang around too for Against The Grain, which, with female harmonies, brushed drums and a glockenspiel countrified shuffle, perfectly evokes the wood smoke of a hillside fire in the lyrics.
After these it comes as something of a shock to hear him in falsetto mode on the opening of Safest Way, adopting the same approach for the chorus although the verses are business as usual. Here and throughout, a melancholic air pervades, Gallagher’s delivery always relaxed and, at times, even languid, brass and strings colouring Missing Parts while organ swirls through the shuffling Valentine To Write where you might hear a twinge of Lou Reed.
It’s all very musically moody and overcast for the slow guitar-led slouch of Weight In Gold, Nick Cave and Neil Young perhaps part of the formative DNA before heading into the final stretch with the slightly over-orchestrated post-break up of Good Intentions. Righteous Spirit strips it back down to acoustics and the album closes with a pairing of slow waltz Laws of Attraction and the strings-swathed, desert night feel of Damned By Your Wings.
A little more variation musically and a little less of the swelling strings might not have gone amiss, but, even so, there’s some precious ore to be found in the seams.