In the best and most musical of ways this is a folk album. Themes, tunes, instrumentation and attitude fit with the eclectic magpie world of folk musicians. There is a traditional tune - the well known jig Lilting Banshee. But more important than tradition, it's an album of songs of some quality, written and performed by ANDREW MILLS.
The songs are the strength. Lyrically and melodically they are strewn with sticky bits from other songs and other places. However plundered, they always sound as though they belong where he's put them, and spotting them is one of the pleasures of the album. Some, like "There's no business like show business" in "Worm" are bold as brass, others like the title "Tea and Oranges" for a song about a girl called Suzanne are more subtle. His love affair with all kinds of song writing probably ensures plenty of non-deliberate examples too.
In support of the voice, Mills has a confident finger-picking guitar style that stays modestly shy of being flash. But he is a very good guitarist. The acoustic tone is excellent and there's plenty of variation. His voice is a bit subdued but its a good servant of the songs. On "Nero" he roughens it up to good effect, dipping out on one or two notes, maybe, but it keeps the conviction rolling. A second vocal is added.
As befits a folk album the opening track is a come-all-ye, of sorts. "Come" is a gently beguiling invitation. It leads us into the very considerable "The Leeds-Liverpool Cut" that opens with the beautifully weighted "I ain't got no money and I ain't got a job, but still, I'd like to take you dancing on Saturday night". These are words we have heard in different ways so many times before, but rarely with such style. I'm as good as won over already. The words rush on, full of nostalgia, hope and northern landscape. And it’s a mere 2 minutes 27. It's a song for a man to be proud of having written.
"A Sight For Sore Eyes" demonstrates the successfully recycled phrase that distinguishes a convincing songwriter like MILLS from the tribe as a whole. When most of us hear "sight" - that's all we take from the phrase. In this song the "sore eyes" hold their own significance too, marking the word weariness of our narrator, and drawing our sympathy. The sting at the end of the song is well worth waiting for.
"Mathair-Uisge" (the source of a stream) is as Celtic as it sounds: Mysterious fragments of story touching deep feelings. It's a reflective pause before "Worm" the magpie rush of daily obsession that also includes the ear-worm lines "something's got a hold of me" and "you know that love will break you".
"Nero" has the extra tone colour of an octave-mandola and an evocatively Irish country nod towards Bruce Springsteen.
In total there are 15 songs. All have the same attention to details and each has its story or mood. "Novak", a heavy sigh towards the femme fatale star of "Vertigo" is a kind of update on WOODY GUTHRIE'S' song for Ingrid Bergman - rather less innocent, but just as heartfelt. "The Camden Lock Song" adds fiddle to guitar and octave-mandola, brings in Suzanne Kerr on extra vocals and sounds like something THE POGUES might have done on a gentle day in someone's flat in London. "Black Dog" could be from 1969's classic "Tracks of Sweeney" album by Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods.
After more than a few plays, these songs have become old friends. I commend them to you.