Beyond Sunsets and Rainbows –  Arthur Rivers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

40581708_890260687811269_5455143928082726912_oIt’s reassuring to find Arthur Rivers exactly where I left him last time, kicking off the album with the previously encountered single You’re the Ocean Waves, You’re the Sea. And although this gentle and wonderfully wonky folk creation gives you a hint at the soft textures and delicate treatments that make up the rest of the album, this is more a vague signpost rather than a road map. It would, of course, be perfectly lovely to follow such pre-designated folk paths pretty much knowing where you are going but instead the album wanders any number of rootsy routes and world music byways. As a famous man once said, it is better to travel well than to arrive and Beyond Sunsets and Rainbows is definitely about the journey. Armed with a vague sense of direction and a sense of musical adventure you head off wide eyed into his music.

Lead You Home takes us past cosmic country bars, You & Me is haunted with the mournful sound of gothic Mariachi, We Remain The Same wanders the bayou’s and backwaters of the Deep South to blend a gospel spiritual with a work gang chant and Heal Your Pain is a suitable soothing infectious pop-folk song. One of the most telling lines on the album is when Arthur sings “Let’s start a fire” and where many would follow that up with some rabble rousing rhetoric, he merely suggests that the “Dance around it remembering the past.” This is an album of intimate reflection, soul-searching and personal nostalgia something that comes as a welcome change of pace in a world where big seems to be regarded as better.

The clever pay off here is that many people mixing up folk, country, sweeping string sections, banjos and the like often produce some sort of nu-country or dream state folk music, something that seems to lose its rigidity and sense of direction, but not Arthur Rivers. For all the soft edges to the music, its gentle textures and subtle musical weaves it is inherent with melody and memorability. The basic structures are rigid and accessible, it is just that he is so adept at knowing just what needs to go into the song to make it work that you end up with a set of songs that do everything they need with the minimum of fuss. 

Rather than resort to studio tricks, over-playing, solo’s and similar showboating, instead the lyrics remain the focal point offering emotion, remembrance, love and connection, and rather than merely trying to get feet tapping along is designed to to do nothing less than get the very soul dancing.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLXXXIX – You’re the Ocean Waves, You’re the Sea – Arthur Rivers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

39878917_883048478532490_1362499175459061760_o.jpgEven before you get to the music, I’m already in Arthur Rivers corner. Why? Because people don’t write titles like that any more. Unnecessarily long, deeply poetic, wonderfully elemental. In an era of the short and concise, the bland and the direct, the cheap and the disposable, even the title jumps out at me. Anything that sounds as if it may have been found buried deep in a Waterboys back catalogue is fine by me.

So you put the record on…or the virtual equivalent of the sacred and much anticipated needle drop… and you find that the poise and poeticism also beats at the heart of the music within. A lilting folk ballad, a spacious roots statement, one that is dressed up beyond its simple guitar lines and gentle but resonant voice with the merest of sonic detail. Some extra guitar texture, some hazy slide or steel washing around in the middle distance and just a dash of dreamlike cosmic harmonies and Rivers has built a song that is brilliant in its transience.

Transient because rather than filling the available space with sound he merely uses it to frame the silence that was there already, rather like how a water colour artist uses the white of the canvas as part of the finished effect. For every note there is the anticipation of the next making it somehow more powerful, for ever word there is the pause between that adds an unhurried air of mystery.

The beauty of such a song is compared with most of the music being thrown at the discerning listener today, it’s a song where almost nothing happens, which might seem like a detriment but if you chose just the right slices of nothing to balance the critical emptiness, then you can, rather than fill spaces, merely encapsulate them and use them as fundamental building blocks in your sound. In doing so Rivers builds atmosphere, anticipation, restraint and a strange primal beauty. His brand of near emptiness is not merely a lack of sonics, rather it is the gentle use of sound to shape the underlying beauty of the natural world. It is something sensed rather than heard and something more often that not buried under a band’s music in their rush to prove that they can offer something better than the unrivalled grace of a universe as old as time itself. Not this time.

Music that breathes in time with the world around it…how cool is that?

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