Springtime in the Heart
Five By Nine Recordings
Grown Up Songs From the Bottom Left Corner of Rarefied Record Collections
We pride ourselves in trying to get our reviews out as near to the release date as humanly possible but sometimes that’s not possible for a variety of reasons; and in this case the album will be having it’s first birthday on the day this review goes out; but that also coincides with its European release ….. the wacky world of Rock and Roll, huh?
After all these years, I’m still a sucker for a great album cover; and this would certainly have caught my attention in a record shop ……. with a wonderful Mono photo of Australian singer-songwriter, Heath Cullen looking like a Mick Jones/Nick Cave/Tom Waits hybrid; and thankfully the music therein certainly matches the artwork.
The opening track, Things Are Always Looking Up has a sort of mellow Native American drum beat to it; and when you hear the opening verse:
“It’s a miracle this world
it grew up right out of the ground
we are seven billion monkeys
burning it all down”
you know you’re not in the presence of a Eurovision winner!
This is the dark singer-songwriter territory that inhabits the bottom left hand corner of rarified record collections; the ones that aren’t for the feint hearted.
Matched to Joe Henry’s pearlescent production and a group of highly respected session players, Cullen’s worn and weary vocals are the perfect combination for his enigmatic and thoughtful songs from very left of centre field.
For someone I’ve never heard of before; Cullen’s songwriting is quite exceptional and at times thought provoking as he prods the listener with a sharp stick on the title track, Springtime in The Heart as well as the bewitching The Last Match which describes a relationship from the ‘last chance saloon’ in a magic and tragic manner.
Between them, Cullen and Henry have conjured up a really, really special collection of songs here; somehow mixing Jazz and Country melodies to come out with songs as achingly beautiful as Cowboy Truths (for Sam Shephard) and Home too.
For my favourite Song I’ve been drawn to Cullen’s blood raw rendition of T Bone Burnett’s Kill Switch, which leaves us on a haunting note from Day #1, but the more I play the album track #2 The Song Always Remembers has grown and grown on my conscious and sub-conscious. It’s a song of love; but in the mode that we expect from Waits or Cohen; and then some ……. but to some degree that sums up the whole album; so that’s where I’m stopping in my quest …. The Song Always Remembers. Music doesn’t get much better than this.
If you like your music slightly left of centre, dark and brooding, grown up and thought provoking then this is the record for you.
BTW Just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more; on Heath Cullen’s website homepage he explains why you will never find his music on Spotify.
God bless you kidda.
USA Release 17th April 2020
Europe Release 20th April 2021
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