If good things come to he who waits then this first full album from Black Sheep Apprentice is proof that the longer you wait the ..err..gooder those things are. Richard Skidmore has guided his musical vehicle through many line-up changes and all the usual highs and lows of band life to a point where the dark stars that seem to hang in the sky above him finally aligned and Born To Walk alone became a reality. It may have taken a while but it has certainly been worth the wait.
Over the year’s Black Sheep Apprentice has evolved from a punked up country band, a sort of blend of The Clash and the Cash…Johnny that is, to a more nuanced vision of gothic Americana, Morricone-esque high drama, and low slung country-blues. Even at a time where alt-country is all over the US zeitgeist and its British-Americana sister sound is flavour of the month on this side of the pond, Born To Walk Alone might be built of recognisable generic strands but the way it is put together still creates a very original take on things.
Even within the countrified confines of their chosen path there is wonderful variation here. Water is a soulful gospel piece enhanced by the resonant rasp of Pete Cousin’s guest vocals whilst Phoenix tips it’s hat to the more driven country rock’n’roll sound that the band were conceived in. The title track with its smoother edges and orchestral sweeps has more than a touch of Neil Diamond about it, if he had eschewed the slick stadium path to play biker bars and truck stops in East Texas and the band’s titular song might be renamed Psychosis and Insanity : The Musical!
Fans of country will love the album’s traditional heart, rock fans the muscle, punks the rawness and more mainstream pop pickers the accessibility and infectiousness. It is raw yet soulful, textured yet direct, cinematic yet punchy…in fact it is hard to think of a music consumer who won’t get a kick out of this album.