The Secret Show - Impressionist Road Map Of The West

Matt Davies. Photo: Cazz Kenzie

Debut album from the Welsh country rock group.
Atlantic: 5 February 2007

Last updated: 23 January 2009

There has a been a not very long and not very distinguished list of established artists switching genres. That Matt Davies, singer with Funeral For A Friend has tried it shows firstly guts, and secondly, that he was confident of his success.

Impressionist Road Map Of The West cover

Tracklisting

  • Lovers
  • Two Drowned Rats In The Desert
  • The Girl From Chapel Hill
  • We Blaze A Trail
  • Impressionist Road Map Of The West
  • The Duke
  • Mañana
  • The Wido
  • Old Blacktop
  • Everyone's A Critic
  • The One That I Love

t's no surprise though: he's talked of his exposure at an early age to West Coast harmonised soft rock and earthy country artists. He's talked of the emotional value of such genres. This is no ill-considered tangent, but Davies getting in touch with his early influences.

Putting together something of a small-scale supergroup of local musicians was also a masterstroke. Impressionist Road Map... sounds professional and complete. The musicianship of guitarist Rhodri Viney is clear to hear, while the male-female duets between Davies and Lianne Francis are sweet without being sugary.

Davies' vocals, perfect for the emotive rock-outs of his day job band, largely succeed on the album, as he knows when to strain and when to ease back. The melodies, too, are pleasant easy-listening fare with clever twists (the middle eight of first track Lovers for instance).

There's a breezy, carefree attitude to many of the tracks (such as The Girl From Chapel Hill) that's refreshing and charming, and an alt-rock influence (think REM, Replacements, Gin Blossoms or Counting Crows) on the less 'country' tracks like We Blaze A Trail.

Manana is a highlight - just Davies and a strummed guitar in the spotlight until a wicked pop hook wraps itself around the song.

Overall, it's difficult to know exactly where Impressionist Road Map... will find its audience. Surely most FFAF fans don't know Gram Parsons from Grand Theft Auto, and alt.country fans will naturally be sceptical. But this collection is strong enough to convince listeners of its merit and the courage of Matt Davies in his convictions.

Words: James McLaren


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