james-mcarthur-head-gardenersIf the band and album title seems like the product of an earlier, more innocent time, then the music within will certainly live up to certain expectations. The wonderfully mellow, lilting folk that follows seems to be at the end of an evolutionary line that stretches back through the likes of Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchel, Simon and Garfunkel and beyond. Although words such as pastoral, bucolic and chilled have already been over used when trying to place James McArthur’s music, for me a far better description is elemental. Not only does he reference the natural world lyrically but its hushed tones seem to seep out of a very natural, organic environment rather than being the result of a man made process.

Strange Readings… feels like an album of the old school, pre-digital age, flowing, one song into the next in a deliberate order rather than being a bunch of songs shackled together on a record because the label says it is time to put out a new product. If that makes it a concept album, so be it, but the reality is it is just a well-conceived set of songs presented in the perfect running order. This allows the music to ebb and flow, again adding to the elemental feeling and by the time the last one is fading out you realise that time has stood still and you have been held enthralled by its mesmerising otherworldliness.

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