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Romancing The Tone

Stuart Bailie | 16:32 UK time, Sunday, 17 February 2013

Anthony Toner gifted us a swell record in 2011, 'A Light Below The Door'. The horns delivered that Celtic swing, the characters were richly defined, it had heart and empathy and was sure of the hope that flickers behind the frame. If you gave it the time and were a simpatico soul, it was the best companion.

Happily, 'Sing Under The Bridges' is a bookend. Clive Culbertson is producing again, well tuned to the Toner method. Ronnie Greer plays blues guitar with coiled precision. John McCullough features on gospel piano and organ and on the final stretch of 'Things Fall Apart' he ascends, beautifully.

There are songs of perseverance and quiet trouble. 'All The Empty Pockets Of Ireland' is set in the twisted present, but there's a dream-fable about unloved millionaires and levitating parents. 'The Road To Fivemiletown' is a rural escape story without the get-out clause. And you cheer on the author when he sings 'Most People Are A Pain In The Ass', because his benevolence gives way to something less giving. "If life was a journey, you'd slash their tyres in the driveway," he figures. It's like watching a fella smile while spitting tobacco juice out of the corner of his mouth.

There's a Dixie shuffle here, a bit of John Prine humanity elsewhere and a significant moment on 'The Only Child In The World' when the floor disintegrates and all seems done. Yet by the end of the song, Anthony is out of the wreckage and determined to fail, better. Just like you hoped that he would.

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