14 October, 2013 in Music Reviews
Welsh songwriter AFL, and his Lowriders, take a break from touring to produce an album of warm and thoughtfully defiant music
or the most part Andy Fairweather Low is a man of the stage, live performance is as vital as drawing breath. It’s been that way for more than several decades and he’s shared those stages with a mindboggling Who’s Who (including The Who) of the rock higher echelons. He has been the man to go to should you want a guitarist/musical collaborator who is blessed with a deft, unassuming technique and can smell musical hypocrisy from the other side of the hill.
He has had time to himself, though, and during these breaks he hasn’t just sat back in an armchair and put his feet up. He’s been writing, performing and recording in his own right. In 2006 this resulted in the release of Sweet Soulful Music and now, after more restless gigging especially with his own band The Lowriders, we have a follow up, Zone-O-Tone.
This road experience bears fruit in the recording of the album. The Lowriders – Paul Beavis, Nick Pentelow and Dave Bronze – do sterling work as you would expect given their pedigrees, but it’s the cohesiveness and joyous playing of the four musicians together that lifts this album above the ordinary. It’s definitely not the work of three journeymen biding their time in the shadows behind the boss man.
The songs, both musically and verbally, resonate with Andy’s baby boomer heritage. Since his first outing with Amen Corner, his musical leanings have nearly always been toward the opposite side of the Atlantic and there’s plenty of evidence of it here: the rockabilly Duane Eddy twang of the opening track Dance On, the Les Paul-like ballroom schmaltz of Let Me Be Your Angel, or the gospel/New Orleans jazz funereal leanings of Unclouded Day being only three examples. The words, too, exude Americana, from the US gizmo implications of the album title to the chain gang and Southern State snake oil/preacher man vocabulary in some of the lyrics – though the latter may also be a nod in the direction of the Welsh Methodist cant of Andy’s youth.
There is some depth here. They could quite easily have brought the live set into the studio and left it at that, but care and subtlety have been utilised throughout. It’s a gem: not the Koh-I-Noor, but it glistens none the less. For anyone out there who still holds a candle for the British blues boom of the 1960s and its subsequent by-products this is well worth a listen. Zone-O-Tone may not trouble any charts, but Low and the boys will shift shedloads at their gigs.
Verdict: A UK veteran shows his songwriting well is far from running dry