Review by www.fairhearing.co.uk

THE DOWNLINERS SECT

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Chinese Whispers

 


Intersection Productions Ltd / Shamrock Solutions Ltd

At last the latest album from S W London’s finest and the expected mixture of down-to-earth humour, resignation and realism is blended their hybrid rocking sophistication. I say ’sophistication’ because these guys are not only musically adept and making music beyond the capabilities of most combo’s - firstly due to their long history as contemporaries of the Stones, Pretty Things, Kinks et al (and still friends with all these outfits) but more importantly their openness to all kinds of influences, not just musical. Irish history, fantasy and crime fiction and pure storytelling are ultimately just as evident in this set of songs as the more upfront rock’n'roll and R&B stylings and edge. For all these esoteric strands which enable a collection as varied as this one but that still swings, you never leave a Downliners gig without a smile on your face.

Titling a song ‘We’re Broke’ is as upfront as you can be, but a band cannot last several decades without a spare tank of optimism. What gives the group its core sound and appeal is the way that rhythm guitar ace Don Craine and bassist Keith Grant Evans blend instrumentally and vocally. In this release’s lineup this gives a platform to harpist John O’Leary and guitar Del Dwyer to blaze away with no worries. Care has been taken with the depth of the chorus and ensemble singing on these songs, particularly on the opener. As Keith might quip - “We’ve got something money can’t buy…poverty”..

Here and there musical fairy dust sprinkler Roger Cotton adds keyboard and vocal embellishment.

Echoes of Dylan and John Prine can be heard in Craine’s tale ‘Casino Mescal’ , a beautifully paced number with a deft slide solo from Dyer over steady drumming from skinsman Al Brooks. It isn’t just John Hiatt that can spin stories of betrayal and grime.

The pure blues tread of ‘I Still Got Your Love’ nod to early influences Jimmy Reed and  Slim Harpo and gives O’Leary a fine Little Walter vibe to make his harp reeds sigh over.

‘Cold Steel’ is as punchy an example of the nimble London Beat Boom sound that sprung out of the Richmond and Twickenham area and still has a keen following at the Eel Pie Club and beyond. ‘Charlie Clone’ has a mean groove – imagine The Electric Prunes shot through with warmth and dig that classic middle eight ! Great guitar tone with wah and flanging touches here.

Other highlights here include the mysterious ‘Lady Moon’, what must be an Anne Robinson tribute ‘She’s Mean’ and the Who-esque chording of ‘Turn It Around’.

What this set has also become since it was recorded is a nod to the drive and percussive talents of now late drummer Al Brooks, whose twenty years with the band gave them the steady pumping clout they need to put their songs over. If he’s now chatting with Keith Moon in a bar on a cloud, in my view that’s only fitting.

To get hold of this album – and you should – try an email to sect-select(at)supanet.com
Pete Sargeant      www.fairhearing.co.uk