Anyone can write a song! You want proof, just turn the radio on. It isn’t even that hard to get it recorded, modern studio technology being what it is. No, the art of ending up with something that really stands out is having a song which was worth writing in the first place. Something meaningful. Something with depth, character, personality. That might sound a bit obvious but then how to you explain the wailing pop-tarts and the cliched rock bands who still clog up the airwaves like something designed to test the efficiency of the cultural u-bend. And if you want to know the difference between such throw away dross and songs which were worth writing in the first place than listen to albums like Reason to Breathe.
Now, I admit that I have just placed Chris’s latest release on a bit of a pedestal but I’m happy to defend it. As I said before, when discussing last year’s Be Still My Heart, the music works not in spite of its subtle and subdued nature but because of it. These are essentially gentle, solo folk songs cocooned in a few additional deft musical textures, given a slightly indie make over, some pop sensibilities but which remain the quiet stranger in the corner rather than the life and soul of the party and we all know that we tire of the latter very quickly and always find the former more intriguing anyway.
There are a few more upbeat moments, the title track being one of them, mixing a sort of pop accessibility with the albums overall characteristically reserved style and Blue Skies’ wonderful merging of bluegrass, English folk and singer-songwriter troubadourism. Plastic Happiness is a chiming piece of subdued indie and opener Cold Sweat and Heat is a brooding and bruised folk dirge….a good dirge, all unresolved pent up energy and the perfect way to kick the album off, a sweet and soothing serenade but one which underplays everything perfectly.
It’s easy to find past references to use to sell the music…John Martyn springs to mind and….and…okay, it’s not that easy but it is better to look forward not back anyway. Folk music’s profile has risen of late, probably thanks to a number of cross over artists such as Brona McVittie and Rowan Coupland and their dalliances with indie and pop and Chris McEvoy is certainly helping to keep things moving forward. Folk music, if this is indeed folk music at all, has always been the sound of the people, the man in the street, the working woman and Reasons To Breathe is a brilliant echo of the genre today and more importantly perhaps the sonic shape of things to come.