Steve Knightley Track of Words – Retraced Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Folk legend revisits his ten year old solo outing.

Michael Quinn 2009

Steve Knightley takes the unusual step of revisiting – and re-recording – his first solo album a decade after its original release to offer a less produced, more mature perspective on songs of personal turmoil and political tumult.

The original Track of Words appeared in 1999 and was intended to, ''put some aural distance between the big, thumpy, essentially acoustic sound'' of Show of Hands, the thriving folk/roots duo Knightley had formed with Phil Beer eight years previously. Though intended to be 'radio friendly', the album failed to raise Knightley's profile at the time. Now, following 2007's sparsely executed solo offering, Cruel River, he's taking another pop at it.

The result is an album that is less musically strident than on its first outing, with Knightley playing an acoustic-accented array of instruments (guitars, mandocello, cuatro, bass and harmonica) variously backed by guitar, fiddle and mandocello (Phil Beer), slide guitar (Dave Wood), piano and vocals (Matt Clifford and Knightley-produced fellow Devonian, Jenna) with onetime busker Jerri Hart's trumpet adding interesting textures of its own.

The production, with Knightley sharing honours with Mark Tucker, smooths out many of the rougher edges of the original, noticeably turns down the volume and pays closer attention to lyrical content, Knightley's discernibly heavier, huskier and more characterful voice now coming purposefully (and not a little poignantly in places) into its own.

There's a reason why Knightley has been called, ''one of England's greatest singer-songwriters'' and you'll find evidence enough of his obvious abilities in these nakedly honest songs of hurt and hope.

A bonus track co-written with Seth Lakeman rounds an interesting experiment off. Track of Words – Retraced proves an interesting commentary on the original album and eloquently illustrates the distance travelled by Knightley musically and emotionally in the intervening years.

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