A thoughtful, warm and intelligent record throughout.
Chris White 2008-02-20
Always somewhat overshadowed by Paul Heaton during his years as guitarist and co-writer in the phenomenally successful Beautiful South, Dave Rotheray has quietly assembled a body of work with his own Homespun project that's every bit the equal of his more illustrious former day job. Homespun released their first album back in 2003 when Hull's most famous sons were still going strong, but their final demise 12 months ago has left Rotheray free to concentrate on his new group without the millstone of the South's status still weighing heavily round his neck.
The result is Short Stories From East Yorkshire, and a very agreeable offering it is too, although admittedly it does sound very like The Beautiful South, albeit a Beautiful South who've swapped Humberside for Nashville and ditched some of the tweeness en route. Rotheray has a lifelong love of country music and he's certainly given it full rein here, with pedal steel on almost every track and lots of ghostly violin and mournful female vocals.
The last ingredient is delivered with aplomb by the vastly underrated Sam Brown, who remains one of Britain's finest singers with her immaculate phrasing and purity of tone. Perhaps her best performance is on the maudlin The Screen Goes Black, which paints a picture of drink-addled desperation with the kind of bittersweet imagery that was a trademark of The Beautiful South. Their wry humour has also made a seamless transition into Homespun's palette, as lyrics like Memo To Self's ''when I look at your baby pictures I feel I'm in a zoo, I've seen that look on a mountain gorilla, serial killers too'' ably demonstrate.
Whether it's the Bacharach-like brass on The Magician's Daughter or The First People On Earth's tongue-in-cheek references to prehistoric man's freedom from taxes and other evils of modern life, Short Stories From East Yorkshire is a thoughtful, warm and intelligent record throughout. Possibly a little too understated and lacking in killer tunes to carry on up the charts like its leader's former band, it nevertheless shows that Rotheray was just as important as Heaton to the Beautiful South's sound and resultant stardom. Let's hope their fans give Homespun a chance as they won’t be disappointed.