Lockdown changed everyone’s lives, often in taxing and unexpected ways. But if there is a silver lining to be found in any of this, it is that the combination of isolation and spare time that people found themselves dealing with caused many to become creative. It also caused the already creative to become even more so and Erin Bardwell is a typical example.
Although a second solo album wasn’t on the cards, with no gigs to rehearse for, no shows to play, he found himself filling that time with songwriting. Songwriting led to recording. The collection of the songs into an album format seemed to suggest certain themes. Those themes led to visual ideas. And visual ideas birthed an accompanying film. Considering I only managed to build an additional, pre-fab bookcase for the front room in the same amount of time, it all makes you feel rather guilty. But anyway…
Get ORGAN-ISED is a lovely blend of reggae grooves, ska sensibilities and dancehall energies, it wanders between the lilting and the positively uplifting, the infectious and the inviting. There are brooding sonic slices, such as the title track’s haunted basslines sparing with Erin’s ebbs and flows of organ, the almost fairytale chimes of The Savoy Ballroom and the solid anthem of unity and self-sufficiency that is We Put That Show On…a rallying cry for the grassroots scene if ever there was one.
The film that it comes with is a half-hour, nostalgic run through his musicals past, a montage of his travels and travails as a member of a number of different bands, images of merchandise, tickets and gig posters, the scene that they were part of, the one that they helped to create and which he continues to support so avidly. But it is also a film that will appeal to anyone who has been in a band, his story is every band’s story, in many ways, the story of grassroots music being played out in grainy visuals, tricky load-ins, meeting your heroes, losing old friends, making new ones, the fun, the effort, the sheer creativity and, of course, the hours spent driving from one gig to the next.
It is Erin doing what he does so well, but it is so much more. Without wanting to use such unwieldy terms as “concept album,” let’s just say that it is an album of concepts, a soundtrack to a musician, the bands and the scene that they remain an integral part of. And this time the music comes with a visual accompaniment that not only acts as a scrapbook for a musician, bandleader and a scene but a tribute to everyone like him and the scenes that they help to support so unwaveringly, so thanklessly and so passionately. And long may they do so.