Self-Release/At The Helm
The Most Authentic Honky and Tonkiest Country Songs Ever Produced in England.
Ags Connolly; real name …… do you know what? I’ve known Mr Connolly for several years now and don’t know what ‘Ags’ is short for; if indeed it is a shortened version …… maybe it’s a nickname or maybe he was actually christened Ags; perhaps we will never know.
Arguably Britain’s Favourite Country Troubadour, this is Connolly’s third album and without spoiling the surprise; probably sounds the way he dreamt of when he was but a lad listening to his Country and Honky Tonk Heroes in his teenage Oxfordshire bedroom.
While as far from an overblown production a you can get; there’s a much clearer and bigger sound here than I remember from his previous releases. Starting with the authentic Twang of opening track I’ll Say When; which features Mavericks’ accordionist Michael Guerra giving an already great song some added class.
Probably because he sounds like he’s making the kind of music he loves, rather than music that will get him airplay; Ags brings a pathos and humanity to Lonely Nights in Austin and Indian Sign that is as surprising as it is expected. Confused? If you see him play live you will know what Ags Connolly is capable of when he sings a song; but actually capturing that magic on record? Well he has ……. and more than just these two songs too.
Ags can certainly write a cool song; but here there’s something different ……. he’s delved even deeper than usual on the dance tune The Meaning of The Word and later on Say It Out Loud he sounds like a man on the edge; and the melody is just what you’d hope to hear were you to stumble into a rough and tough Border Town cantina one sad and lonely night.
Perhaps it’s because there’s been a lot of competition across the Countrypolitain World in the last two years that Ags has had to ‘up his game’ but not just the melodies; but the songs and stories themselves are all top of the class; with the gorgeous Sad Song Forever and What Were You Going To Do About It? both being exceptional for an English singer-songwriter, as both are so ‘believable’ and sound like they’ve been hiked out of some long forgotten songbook; rather than being typed up on an I-Pad!
HANG ON THERE! I thought the first time I played this album; as I instantly recognised one song …… a cover version indeed! Not something I normally associate with this young man; but his treatment of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain sits in here quite seamlessly and it’s sad to say; many younger listeners probably won’t know it’s providence …… so a great choice as well.
The ‘best song’ doesn’t have to actually be your favourite; does it? Favourite Songs come in many shapes and sizes; and are favourites because they touch your heart and/or brain in some unimaginable way ….. which is how I feel about the title track Wrong Again (Lose a Life) which took my breath away the first time I played it a month ago and still sounds like one of the 45’s you’d sit by the radio praying would come on next.
It is perfectly constructed with lush harmonies, pedal-steel, Twangtastic guitars, rat-a-tat drumming and a rock solid bass combo, as well as featuring Eamon McLaughlin’s steller fiddle playing ….. then add Connolly’s trademark ‘world weary’ vocals and you have a Country Song that much more famous singers dream of recording.
Apart from thoroughly enjoying this album; I’m simply thrilled that my friend has had the opportunity to sing his songs in such esteemed company; and company that brings out the best in him ……… now hopefully World Domination is finally on the horizon ……. or at least an invite to Country 2 Country, as this record is more Country than any of the names I recognise on the 2020 poster!
Released November 1st 2019