This, ladies 'n gents, is a letter perfect blend of folk and blues, one of the best I've ever heard. The spaciousness of the recording is jaw dropping, like the blue-est day of deep summer in the Plains or Outback (Leigh Sloggett's Australian and a friend of Tom Bolton, who issued the marvelous When I Cross the River [here], a CD not to be missed) with a sky wider than heaven. The gentle reproofs and admonitions he pens in his lyrics then become all the more affecting for that atmosphere.
Just as considered, though, is Sloggett's guitar playing (acoustic, lap slide), and the intro to On the Climbing Road contains a simple but impeccable spiritual component lifting the soul as it inflicts an ache on conscience, later counterpointed by a sudden vocal elevation into birdsong falsetto, almost chillingly penetrative. Expect a touch of blues gospel as well, as Money Can't Buy Happiness dips suddenly into the zone, with Liz Frencham's backing vocals doubling down (she plays contrabass on most cuts as well and gets a really resonant fretless sound much more like Mark Egan than the traditional double bass player is able to achieve).
For no reason I can explain, I'm sometimes reminded of Al Stewart here—probably the purity of the recording, the folkiness of the approach, and the internal melodics—though the sound is rarely in that camp, more John Martyn-ish or David Lindley by way of Iain Matthews. Sloggett can also ratchet up the passion when he's of a mind, Good Fortune proves that, but there's such a pacific charm throughout the entire release that Looking for the Clues settles into Nick Drake, Tracy Chapman, and other territories as well. As I said in opening, this is such a seamless meld of folk and blues, with generous infusions of roots country, that it's damn near a newly sophisticated beast of refined contours, perhaps in fact singular.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles