Dozens of Cousins Records
A Delightful and Gentle Look at Life, Love and Family.
Regular readers will know of my love for Northern Irish singer-songwriters; all of whom were brought to my attention by my friend Bap Kennedy.
One of my favourites is the ‘elder statesman’ Anthony Toner who only released his debut album just under ten years ago; and recently sent me a ‘gig only’ Best Of which is quite exceptional and a copy of INK his latest new release.
Anthony’s distinctive warm husky tones are as wonderful as ever on the opening track Let The River; a gentle piano led song about the effect love can have on you. Think James Taylor singing a Randy Newman song.
As we know songwriter’s get their ideas from what is around them; both good and bad, which makes track#2 all the more fascinating; as An Alphabet deals with his father’s Alzheimer’s and it’s harrowing effect on the singer; but written and sung through a shroud of love and sensibility; which is the thread that weaves through every song here.
Anthony Toner’s newsletters are captivating as he doesn’t just try to ‘sell you stuff’ but talks about books he is reading, music he is listening to and also about his family; which is how I already knew about his father’s condition and his Mother died earlier this year.
His Mother;’s death is included here in the stunningly beautiful The Night Prayer of St. Augustine. Surely a difficult subject to write and indeed sing about; but Toner does it all with such love and elegance you can’t help but smile and mentally give him a big warm hug.
Perhaps these two events have caused him to look back on his life; which may explain the charming Square Eyed Boy and the slightly frightening but engaging Exit Wounds; when he describes the time he held an actual gun for the one and only time in a friends bedroom after the Troubles had finished. Told in a ‘Talking Blues’ style I now associate with Belfast’s favourite son Ivan Morrison; Toner held me captivated for four solid minutes.
Toner’s rolling guitar style doesn’t just hold his songs together but he gets to showcase his skills on four semi-classical instrumentals; none of which are ‘filler’ as each is here on merit, and Cotton Anniversary could and should be the theme tune to a travel programme or such like on the TV.
Much like Bap Kennedy, Anthony Toner has ‘a way’ with a love song that leaves you in no doubt how strong his feelings are without every sounding drippy or schmaltzy. The Honky-Tonky Still Your Man is a good example as is Sleep Like a Soldier.
But; it’s two songs that don’t fit into any of the above categories that tie for the ‘Favourite Song’ title; but the way he takes a tiny personal observation and makes it Universal subject that will touch the hearts of everyone who hears it is outstanding on Light From The Stars and the sad love song Sometimes The Night.
If you are of ‘a certain age’ and like songwriting of the finest quality sung from the heart by a truly distinctive voice; then I can’t recommend this album highly enough.
Released May 1st 2017