LOOSE MUSIC 15th October 2021
I’ve enjoyed Danny Wilson’s music for years now, starting with Danny And The Champions Of The World and working backwards to Grand Drive. This, although billed as a solo album, isn’t one man and his guitar, it’s an inspirational partnership with Hamish Benjamin, who has conjured the instrumentation. It’s a shift in focus for Wilson. Previously very much a South London Springsteen, with tales of racing cars in the street, love for an old touring van and stories of love and life. Now songs are more impressionistic – a series of images, linking poetically into songs without always following a narrative line or strict sense. Melody is still strong and, if choruses are less anthemic, a wistful flavour of tune fulfils a similar purpose.
There are still the sounds you’d expect, like pedal steel, but this is not a band record and Henry Benjamin conjures up artificial assemblages at time, from bursts of chaos to mellotron to unusual playings of traditional instruments (eg bowing a cymbal). Both ‘I Wanna Tell You’ and ‘Right Place’ have a Neil Young-style distorted guitar bluster appear from nowhere and end just as completely. It adds to the colour but there’s a little confusion in my simple little mind. Co-managing a record shop (Union Music Store in Lewes) brought Danny into contact with genres he’d not stumbled over before, widening his potential palette. Hamish Benjamin took it further, inviting Wilson to his studio, where basic tracks of Wilson singing with acoustic guitar were dressed up and weirdness added. The knock-on effect was Danny getting less constricted with his song-style, opening himself up to looser imagery.
We do get a short Jeff Tweedy solo on the George Harrison-sounding ‘We’ve Got A Lot to Learn’ (a Spirit cover), so the project has touched the hem of God’s frock and clearly Danny has a worthy reputation. The album’s second cover is also obscure – a duet on ‘I Would Be In Love (Anyway)’ from Watertown, one of Sinatra’s late period maudlin / overblown albums. He does a great job of making it his, which isn’t easy with Frank’s voice in your head, and reinforces my belief that Danny has a clear authorial voice and, wherever his journey takes him, it would be a shame to travel too far from his strengths.
The overall effect is still very much Danny Wilson, just with a different inflection. This ancient reviewer likes what he knows and values Wilson for his ability to build a big organic anthem with emotional impact. This is more of a detour into a different direction off-road and I’m hoping, as he seems to be passenger here, that he grabs the steering wheel and pulls the operation back onto the highway he was heading along before.