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PETE SHIRLEY - Sunset Katy And Other Stories

PETE SHIRLEY - Sunset Katy And Other Stories
Private Label

Pete’s a Stoke-on-Trent based singer-songwriter with a passion for his craft. He’s blessed with a direct, mellow and honestly expressive singing style and a voice that once heard is not easy to mistake. His delivery, the disarming easy accessibility of his melodies and sometimes deceptive simplicity of his messages: these are traits that to my ears rather uncannily call to mind the music of Paul Metsers, or even early Allan Taylor, in which respects Pete’s stylish output could be considered similarly old-fashioned – replete as it is with quality construction, a right-minded conviction in beliefs and a complete lack of pretension. Put simply, listening to Pete’s music is enjoyable and life-affirming in the best of folk traditions.

Virtually every one of his self-penned creations has the ring of familiarity and the comforting reassurance of good craftsmanship, and it’s a complete mystery to me why I’d not come across Pete’s work before. His songs are both memorable and truly irresistible, from the gently observational to archetypal anthem-cum-road-song A Roving I Will Go, the convivial invitation Come By And See Me Soon and the romantically devotional Silver Like A Star. The deft, delicate expressiveness of Pete’s guitar playing is showcased on two all-too-brief instrumental tracks: the prelude-like The Moon And Barbed Wire Fence and the absolutely lovely pictorial Stillwater Morning. And Pete’s got a whole lot more to offer too, for even when he’s not treating us to his own thoughts, Pete has something valuable to say; tucked in amongst the wealth of excellent original creations on this well-filled (64-minute-long) disc, we find a seriously sincere, thoughtful, beautiful and lyrical take on Down By The Riverside, while he also turns in a persuasively idiomatic, almost Guthrie-esque rendition of the traditional number, Beaver Dam Road. The third non-original is Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton)’s Greasy Greens, which benefits from a spirited and wholly idiomatic cajun-cum-old-timey backing courtesy of Ciaran Algar (fiddle), Adrian Crosbie (accordion) and Alan Whitmore (piano). On most of the tracks, these musicians are joined by other pals to flesh out the textures, and Esther Brennan contributes some aromatic harmony vocals to a number of songs, but these various augmentations all so perfectly complement Pete’s voice and lyrics that there’s never any sense of redundancy or overkill. And it’s curious, though possibly indicative, that while the majority of tracks last upwards of five minutes, none outstay their welcome. Now there’s the mark of a classy songwriter. You really can’t afford to miss out.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 109 of The Living Tradition magazine.