Love and Optimism – Davey Woodward & The Winter Orphans (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Most people will relate to Davey Woodward‘s eloquent and wonderfully ragged songs because he sings about the day to day life of the everyman, the human condition, of love, loss and longing. I relate to him just as much because his home town of Bristol looms large in the background of his songs, a city which I also know all too well. Even when he is delivering totally personal narratives, laying out chapters of his life, it is quite a rush to think that I have walked those same streets, leant on the same bars, perhaps been in the same room as the people who populate his songs.

But even without such a connection Love and Optimism is a charming album, full of songs which are down to earth, relatable and which you will find even reflect your own life to some degree. But more than that, even though the album was written in the summer of 2019, songs such as Occupy This Space, a collection of chiming acoustic shards, understated folk moves and emotive, distant trumpets, seem to perfectly capture the feelings of isolation and detachment that followed 6 months later with this country’s national lockdown.

Similarly, Clara’s Ghost which rounds off the album is fairly prophetic, touching on Bristol’s controversial history as a major player in the Slave Trade, the city making international news a few months later when a statue of slave trader and city benefactor Edward Colston was pulled from its plinth and unceremoniously dumped into the harbour.

But if the album has political and social statements to make, it does so subtlety, those concerns being woven into the backdrop against which more personal narratives are played out. And pitched against such reflective subject matter there is no shortage of humour, Bad Day being a song which we will see ourselves in and laugh all the more openly because of such recognition.

Love and Optimism is the triumph of raw edge over polish, frayed sonic endings above easy groove, intimacy over pose, honesty over go-to cool and one hundred times cooler than the competition for being so. This is the sound of day drinking with a life-long buddy rather than the bright lights of the night time social scene. This is substance over style and ironically, in its own, homespun and inimitable way, is as stylish as hell and will resonate perfectly with those astute enough to understand that diamonds are just carbon in another form. 

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