Folk-country artist Piper Radcliffe has just released his debut album Odyssey, which he calls “the selective product of an enduring songwriting life in private that has now gone public.” Based in Manchester, UK, Radcliffe describes his songs as “a call out on love, loss and fortitude, and aspirations all too often short-changed. It traces the hero's journey that we all make in one form or another.”
The album was recorded at Airtight Studios in Manchester with mixing and mastering by Alan Lowles, who also played keys, double bass and French accordion. The other players are Danny Gruff (electric guitar), Gheorghe Dorin Tuca (violin), Joss Brookes (cello) and Che Beresford (drums). Radcliffe doesn’t list himself but I assume he sings and plays guitar. The album is available as a handsomely designed CD package or as a download.
“American Dream” starts the proceedings on a particularly “American” footing. Radcliffe’s singing voice is somewhat high-pitched and has a friendly, expansive quality, and his music betrays a strong country sound for an English lad. This particular song wouldn’t be out of place in the hands of a John Mellencamp or even Bruce. The cello and violin players make their first appearance toward the end, and they contribute way more than their weight in expanding Radcliffe’s sound.
“Can’t See The Wood For The Trees” (great title!) is an uptempo acoustic anthem. The happily-strummed guitar chords nicely support Radcliffe’s lyrics: “Open your eyes and face down your fears / You're not really drowning it's only your tears / Life is in color, not black and white / Don't run for cover, stand there and fight.”
“I Let You Down” slows things down a bit for a string-heavy ballad with Radcliffe in “romantic regrets” mode. He sings: “I have to live with what I've done / I can't undo what I've become / I don't have words to make amends / It's not enough to just be friends.” The violin and cello overdubs work beautifully and feel like a miniature string section, a kind of second cousin to McCartney’s “Yesterday” quartet. “Perfect Intentions” has a bit of zydeco herky-jerky swagger, thanks in large part to the French accordion.
“Setting Sun” is a more aggressive folk-pop tune with acoustic piano, chiming country electrics and a very different and assertive Radcliffe vocal with British Invasion harmonies. I really like the use of similar sounding words in the chorus: “I’ll say goodbye, se la vie / I'll say goodbye and sail away.” A standout track for me! “Last Breath” feels Irish traditional, ironically thanks to the accordion but also due to the lilt of Radcliffe’s heavily layered vocals. (Russell Eckersley and Penny Inglis added to the note-perfect harmonies.)
As the title of the song “Last Breath” implies, Radcliffe now faces the Great Beyond: “So it's all right now, I'll take my last breath / Time to pass over and be with the rest / Yes it's all right now, I'll take my last breath / I’ll see you mañana and along with the rest.” The album’s final track is the acoustic “Don’t Give In” which again features a zydeco sound but this time over a reggae beat, and is a fittingly upbeat, forward-looking conclusion.
Radcliffe’s freshman effort is a solid, inspiring album and well worth checking out.
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