Post-Industrial Northern Folk With a Hue of Blues
I don’t know where to start? Kete Bowers’ back-story I presume; as being born on the banks of the River Mersey and leaving home when the last ‘years of austerity’ in the North bit hard; and subsequently marrying and divorcing colour his songwriting like a very fine black permanent marker.
Even getting this album recorded was fraught with despair; as a financial backer disappeared without trace days before the original recordings were to start.
But being the dogged character he is, Bowers sent out even more e-mails and a Canadian record label picked up the challenge alongside Michael Timmins from Cowboy Junkies agreed to be Producer too.
So; hopefully you’re not expecting a happy go-lucky collection of dance tracks after that are you?
The stone cold beauty of this collection of songs is the combination of Bowers’ heartfelt and often gut-wrenching songwriting with a distinctively rich voice and Timmins trademark crisp production that forces the listener to listen intently to every damn word and chord progression.
Northern Town which starts the album and sets the mono-tone was originally conceived as a commentary about living in and eventually leaving Birkenhead between 1976 and 81; but sadly could have been written any time in the last 5 years as it’s just as pertinent and observational today in 2019.
It’s no surprise at all to find each and every song is desperately person in tone, word and deed with each and every one being tragically beautiful too; with A Place By The River and Ghosts visiting themes many others have attempted to capture; but never in such an extraordinary manner as Bowers uses his words and Timmins his magic touch on the emotional dashboard.
It’s a long time since I heard anyone use their voice in this deeply sensitive way to convey their feelings from the very pits of their soul, as Kete does on A Fine Day To Leave and later on You Stole My Joy, which uses imagery in a way I would normally associate with film directors Ken Loach and Shane Meadows.
As this is only Bowers second ever album, and nine years after the first it’s unlikely you will ever have heard of him before this review; but I will throw a couple of names into the ring as to whom he reminds me of; Canadian Stephen Fearing and legendary English Folk Singer Ralph McTell; a strange combination, I agree …… but listen and tell me I’m wrong.
Normally I would avoid a ‘single’ as my Favourite Track; but Winner is such an emotional and heartbreaking narrative; sung with raw passion how could I select anything else?
We all know talent isn’t enough on it’s own to become succesful these days; but Kete Bowers just needs a smidgen of good luck and a couple of TV appearances to make this album into some kind of chart hit for this exceptional singer-songwriter.
Released 28th June 2019