STEADY YOUR AIM
A Skilled Americana Storyteller Who Sets His Tales to Country Music.
Let’s get the artwork on the cover out of the way first…….it’s bloody awful, reminding me primarily of a Dr John bootleg I own and is certainly something I would pass over in a record shop; and it’s fair to say most of us do ‘judge a new album by the cover.’
But……my other criteria for reviewing records is always track #1, and it has to catch my attention by fair means or foul.
My head nearly exploded the first time I heard Take A Walk With Me…….Eagles type guitars and an electric organ that sounds uncannily like Garth Hudson and Sheppard’s world weary and slightly frazzled voice makes him sound like *Danny Wilson’s younger brother…..and the song itself grabbed me by the throat and demanded I listen intently.
The title track Steady Your Aim follows and even before it ends you know you are listening to a songwriter that has ‘lived life to the full’ with as many pitfalls in it as happy moments and can eloquently write songs about both sides of the human condition.
In the accompanying notes Andrew says that this is ‘something of a concept album, a musical journey’; and it might be, but for me it is just a great collection of well thought out and constructed songs that cross the divide between what we know as Alt. Country and Americana pulling the listener in both directions with ease.
In the great tradition of the Singer-songwriter Andrew Sheppard is first and foremost a consummate storyteller who sets his tales to music; and what a combination that creates.
Here At The Bottom could just as easily be a sombre solo acoustic song; and I’m sure it is some nights but here he Rocks the Country ass out of it; with some wonderful Chet Atkins influenced twang guitar and a bass and drum set up that the Tennessee Three would have been proud to create a punchy and powerful song that would be perfect for the radio on a car journey.
When you aren’t careful Sheppard punches you straight in the heart with some incisive lyrics in Standin’ Tall and the Country-Noir Lies as Cheap as Whiskey which is surely bound to turn up on an LP by one of Nashville’s major Hat acts very soon.
Andrew Sheppard not only writes from the heart but sings from there too on Holy Water and the sublimely bittersweet Red Wine & White Roses which could and should be the RMHQ ‘Favourite track’ if it wasn’t for another Country-Noir masterpiece; Travel Light and Carry On, which is not only atmospheric and cinematic but literate and expressive in a way I’ve not heard a new act perform since that first Sturgill Simpson album High Top Mountain in 2013.
It’s a very crowded market out their for artistes like Andrew Sheppard in America but in the UK and Europe he has a talent that really will be appreciated and I’m sure that he will be welcomed with open arms should he ever venture over this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Released 23rd March 2018
*Danny Wilson is the singer in RMHQ favourites Danny and The Champions of the World