As if to prove the old adage that “you can take the boy out of England….” despite building a new life and new musical base on the other side of the world, Phil Dean’s new musical vehicle, The Gathering Tide, just oozes with Old World imagery and pathos. The references may sometimes be less than obvious, the narratives and messages indeed loaded with a universal relevance, but the delivery, outward music trappings and heart of the songs speak with a quintessential English folk voice.
It is the same voice which could be heard speaking through the music of Zeptepi, the band he is best known for, but here the music moves in more reflective, hushed and soul searching ways and even with the bigger numbers on the album such as When The World Was Otherwise the music is intense rather than furious, and seems to “rock in” rather than “rock out.”
And to pull at comparisons which I’m sure he will approve of, tracks such as The Hunter could very easily have cropped up on Justin Sullivan’s similar solo venture Navigating By The Stars and the feeling of lore and land, heart and hinterland, soul and season which forms the intangible core of the music is straight out of the Mike Scott book otherworldly visions.
In many ways The Gathering Tide is a typical solo journey, one where the artist distils the essence of their bigger musical canvasses down to simpler lines and more considered brush strokes. But it is also unusual because despite this, or perhaps because of it, it easily stands on its own two feet in the face of those more ambitious, full band albums which have paved the way up to this point.
To bring in another over used adage you could indeed say that less is more…more or less.