HOW THE CITY SINGS
Captain Records …………
“One thing about London is that when you step out into the night, it swallows you.” Sebastian Faulks
Fresh from his role (along with Jim Moray) in Radio 2 Folk Award nominees False Lights, Sam Carter’s new solo album takes a slight step back from the amped up folk rock displayed on False Lights’ album, SALVOR. I say slight as there are several occasions here when the electric guitar is plugged in and the knobs turned up to create a cacophonous noise, some of False Lights’ brief tenure with Richard Thompson perhaps the template here. Certainly, Carter is wringing the notes out like vintage Thompson, a clarion bagpipe-like drone to the fore on Dark Days and The Grieved Soul, while Taunting The Dog is the sort of meaty folk rock doled out by The Albion Band and Oysterband. Dotted throughout the disc they add to the flow and ebb of the HOW THE CITY SINGS, which is centred around Carter’s experience of living in London for the past ten years, evoking the dynamics of The Great Wen.
The songs range from angry diatribes (Drop The Bomb) to tender ballads. The latter exemplified by the excellent opening song, From The South Bank To Soho, where Carter has to choose between a lover and his adopted city. His tender finger-picking and mournful viola (by Sam Sweeney) gently support his pained vocals. There’s another aching moment on the poignant Haringey Lullaby, a crepuscular lament with a dreamlike backing, the song apparently written in the wake of the Baby P case with Carter carving a safe and comforting world for little ones from his music. Dreams are again invoked on King For A Day which inhabits a similar nocturnal musical terrain, the notes hushed as Carter recalls Roy Harper’s more tender and lyrical moments. Our Kind Of Harmony is the folkiest song here, Carter sounding most traditional in his voice, fiddle and guitar to the fore as he sings about two friends who marry.
Away from the personal, Carter seems to have a more baleful attitude towards the city itself. That ringing amplified clarion call rears its head again on the righteous Drop the Bomb, a song that begins with traffic noise and a lonesome piano, gradually growing in menace and then the guitars kick in with a fury as Carter wails the title repeatedly with an apocalyptic fervour. Bending the notes like Thompson in his prime, Carter throws in a furious solo towards the end before segueing into the one traditional song here, the electric dirge of The Grieved Soul. The anger is muted on the closing title song where Carter, accompanied only by piano, casts visions of the city waking and then sleeping, a living organism with a myriad of voices. Paul Kerr