Review: Silver Campervan
Stephen Morris puts the grey clouds behind him and finds a little bit of summer in his review of 'Shade', the debut album from Stroud unsigned band 'Silver Campervan'.
iWell, it wasn't much of a summer, was it. The wettest August in years and even when it wasn't raining it wasn't exactly the best weather ever.
Not much chance for sunbathing, picnics or leisurely sun drenched walks in the countryside.
Less still the opportunity for warm summer evenings spent gathered round a barbecue.
Which is a pity, because if ever there was a local Gloucestershire act whose music epitomised a warm summer evening it's Silver Campervan.
The band's song 'Travelling' was featured on the August 2008 edition of the Introducing show, but they have a whole album of tracks where that came from.
The Bare Necessities
The music on 'Shade' is stripped down to the bare essentials: acoustic guitars and vocals.
But for the brief appearance of a melodica (an instrument probably last seen in your childhood toy box), that's it: gently strummed guitars and beautiful harmonies between the voices of Kevin Howlett, Chris Scott and Amy Gardner.
Inevitably comparisons will be made to Nick Drake.
Any musicians whose preference is for acoustic folk-ish guitar will find themselves gauged against such a yard stick (if it's not heresy to reduce such a legend to a mere unit of measurement).
East Meets West
Penultimate track 'Travelling' is a prime example. The introduction isn't too far removed from something you might have heard on 'Five Leaves Left'.
What follows is something many times removed from the singer-songwriter from Tanworth in Arden as the lyrics reference Moscow and the music heads towards Spaghetti Western territory.
All you need to complete the dusky Western feel is a Mariachi trumpet or two.
It is this eclectic management of styles that makes Silver Campervan more than a group of Drake copyists.
They are just as likely to remind listeners of Simon and Garfunkel ('Mr Black's Special Bourbon Drip'), Ben and Jason ('Saturday') or Scottish super group The Reindeer Section ('You Like the Way I Move on the Dance Floor').
The highlight of the album is 'Mr Black’s Special Bourbon Drip'.
While most of the other tracks on the album are meditative songs, almost whimsical in their references to migrating birds, butterflies and stepping into the rain, this song has a greater sense of urgency to it.
There's even something of a story to it (in between 'Mrs Robinson' style instrumentals) about life on the open road, the search for adventure and the perils involved in finding it.
It's a plot you might just find in a Coen Brothers movie.
Lords and Ladies of the Dance
Elsewhere, the songs on 'Shade' have a gentler pace to them. Even songs with lyrics such as "I danced my life away" ('Saturday') and "You like the way I move on the dance floor" are calmer and smoother than you might think.
If there's any dancing to be done, it's a gentle sway rather than a polka, tango or trip to the mosh pit.
There's much talk of a journey to be travelled (the 'Southern Line' is mentioned on two songs) or a being taken (most obviously 'Travelling').
Even 'Mr Black's Special Bourbon Drip' is a road trip of a song.
The metaphor is slightly obvious and, perhaps overdone, but less concerning when you allow the music to wash over you.
Asleep in the Back
Saying that an album is great to fall asleep to may not sound like the greatest compliment of all time.
But music is designed to fit all kinds of moods - and what else are lullabies for?
In 'Shade' you will find the perfect accompaniment to the final hours of a summers day - or even an autumnal one.
So what if we didn't have the sunniest of summers? On this album Silver Campervan have harnessed just a little sunshine and make it go a very long way.
This article is an external contribution and expresses a personal opinion, not necessarily the views of the BBC.
If you're involved in the Gloucestershire music scene and you would like Stephen to review your music, please feel free to get in touch. Either email firstname.lastname@example.org or send your album and a bit about yourself to:
last updated: 15/01/2009 at 09:53