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Boo Hewerdine God Bless the Pretty Things Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

These are timeless songs for all seasons.

Colin Irwin 2009

He’s never seriously troubled chart compilers, arena tour promoters or the mainstream media, but over the last couple of decades Boo Hewerdine has quietly established himself as one of Britain’s most consistently accomplished songwriters.

The closest he ever came to conventional stardom was in the 1980s as the unfeasibly tall singer with the excellent band The Bible, but the cultured quality of his songs has certainly been recognized by his peers. Natalie Imbruglia, Mel C, Suggs and k.d. lang are among those who’ve benefited from his pen and he’s been an influential collaborator with others, notably Eddi Reader, for whom he produced the highly successful Sings the Songs of Robert Burns.

On his first band album for over a decade, we find his finely crafted songs and gently assured voice surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including John McCusker on fiddle, Alan Kelly on accordion, Ewen Vernal on double bass, Stephen Douglas on drums, the amazing Gustaf Ljunggren on keyboards, lap steel and woodwind and Heidi Talbot on backing vocals. Together they contrive a suitably delicate backdrop for Hewerdine’s smoothly shaped material without ever swamping him, resulting in an album of unusual class and sensitivity.

Don’t expect tub-thumping mantras. These are classic, melody-driven love songs which would have been gobbled up by Tin Pan Alley in another era but now, draped in sympathetic, subtle arrangements, offer a soothing antidote to the frantic madness of modern times. Not unlike Richard Hawley’s bittersweet portrayals of Sheffield, Hewerdine paints his scenarios with beguiling attention to detail. “Lying in bed with her the first time I heard Graceland play,” he sings, poignantly reflecting on the perils of long-distance love on Geography; and whether it’s the war-time lovers who search for one other on In Paris After the War or the familiar rituals of self-examination and rebirth of New Year’s Eve, he generally rises above the cascade of sentiment that occasionally threatens to tip into pathos to apply proper emotional values.

A jazzy undercurrent here, a folkie adornment there, but these are timeless songs for all seasons.

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