Given Nelson King’s usual rate of output, I was thinking of sending out a search party, having not had anything by him land in the in-box for quite a while, but thankfully Life Ain’t No Movie Show turned up as if to assure me that he is still very much in the game. Though its all relative I guess as even with this recent breathing space he would still finish in medal position compared with today’s average artist.
For a man who has spent most of his career as a saxophonist, composer and producer in more avant-garde and psychedelic circles, Always All Around You seems to follow some classic and conformist lines. Not that that is in anyway a bad thing, of course it isn’t, the very definition of the term classic is an “outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality” and that also tends to imply accessibility, familiarity and working in comfort zones. This second album sees Norman Salant adopting the mantle of acoustic guitar slinging, singer-songwriter, one who neatly treads a path that the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Neil Young have left their sonic footprints on.
As well as having a fantastic name, The Happy Curmudgeons, make a sort of music which seems to have fallen out of fashion, but much deserves a revival. Think of where the genres of folk and rock intersect today and it is normally in the much overdone punked up Celtic traditions or an attempt to revive some sort of hippy dream time in an act of rose-tinted nostalgia. But Idle Time reminds us that bands such as The Grateful Dead, Neil Young and even Steely Dan effortlessly and seamlessly manage to build roots rock classics that combined folky deftness and rock muscle. And that is exactly what is going on here.
Running at a gentle pace it grooves and pulses but leaves enough space at the front end of the song so that when the electric guitar needs to go to work, either building banks of sound or cutting through with dexterous and understated lead work, it does so with wonderful impact. There is something chilled and 70’s about the song, a wonderfully change of pace from the bombast and bluster that rock is more usually associated with today. But the Curmudgeons are content to reference rather plunder and the song does no more than tip its battered and jaunty fedora in their direction whilst reminding us of the cyclical nature of music fashion. Time for a cosmic roots revival? Who’s with me?