WildGoose Studios WGS349CD

George only began his song-writing career began in 2001, but over 180 songs later, his craft still continues to develop apace for album number seven (which is his first for WildGoose).  In many ways, though, Life’s Eyes is still very much quintessential George with his typically right-on commonsense worldview, continuing to score high on his key attributes (acute powers of observation, compassion and essential humanity), and all the while shot through with the delightful winding contours of his by now unmistakeable melodies and guitar riffs.  But George also cleverly rings the changes on this record, with an increasingly adventurous approach to form and structure in particular, confidently and unassumingly bringing into the musical mix piquant flavours of the music of his native Greece, all the while consolidating his strong musical rapport with his unbelievably versatile “Los Marbles” colleagues Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer by presenting an ever-engaging and subtly enhancing musical backdrop for his songs.  Additionally, George’s distinctive singing voice has matured immeasurably from its slightly diffident beginnings into a gloriously expressive (and idiomatic) vehicle that his superbly intricate yet intrinsically musical guitar playing ideally counterpoints.
The old adage “laugh or cry, same price” has always been a strong suit for George and his output, and Life’s Eyes again rides the emotional seesaw with absolute conviction, from caustic attacks on present-day society and attitudes (Another Day, Upwind Of Me) to wry slice-of-life observational pieces (the intriguingly antiphonal Rush Hour) and poignantly many-faceted lyrical sketches (Late Spring).  Then there are the trademark heart-rending reminiscences where the personal is so expertly given a universal dimension (as in Regrets, written following the death of George’s father, and the unbelievably touching For A Friend), while the emotional and musical pull of (An Emigrant’s) Rebetiko (quite literally, “where Father Thames flows into the Mediterranean”), is also considerable.  And all in the space of a little over an hour.  There are so many gorgeous details to discover: pithy lyric bites, felicitous twists and turns of phrase and melody.  This new disc is both a brave step and a proud achievement for George and his collaborators – and special mention for the extremely attractive artwork (by Hilary Bix) and George’s excellent liner notes, all entirely typical of his careful attention to detail.  Note too that Life’s Eyes also represents a landmark release for WildGoose: something of a departure for this hitherto fairly “traditionally-slanted” label, perhaps, but a constantly satisfying and stimulating one that repays your investment many times over – for after all, George’s songs (like those of label mate Mick Ryan, indeed) are undoubtedly “tomorrow’s tradition”.
David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 78 of The Living Tradition magazine.