Album Reviews

Alistair Cowan – Why Can I See Stars

(active) UK release date: 14 February 2005


“Why can I see stars?” croons singer/songwriter Alistair Cowan on his first album since British song-based rock band Redwood split in 2000. Because sometimes he is so desperate that Nitrous even seems worth doing at the end of the night? Because brawls are a common occurrence after his seven pints of wife-killer?

No no no. This is a sweet wine-swilling, acoustic-driven musician from Surrey who is praised for his wide vocal range and subtle dulcet tones. Why else would he be singing so delicately about seeing stars if it wasn’t because he had just met the girl of his dreams?

Fans were disappointed when Redwood went their separate ways five years ago, but can now take comfort in the fact that at last frontman Cowan is back with a very satisfying solo album. It’s pop-folk at its simplest and sweetest and he certainly doesn’t hold back in taking this opportunity to lull listeners with his delicately tender voice.

But it’s not just the pleasing surface sound that makes Why Can I See The Stars stand out from other simple drum-backed offerings. Just ask similarly-situated Louis Eliot whose hideously drab solo album The Long Way Round made fans question if Rialto‘s brief moment of fame was anything to do with him at all.

The ten prettily crafted tracks on this endearing album don’t ignore the more serious or comic situations in life. Easier To Smile flits around the subject of domestic violence, while Big Night Out dryly jokes on the partying to be had on three pounds. Cowan’s storytelling is charmingly personal and adds a much-needed layer to wrap this offering up comfortably as an album of substance.

Even if machismo stands between you and Alistair Cowan, it’s hard to believe that behind closed doors his unassuming charm won’t provoke a moment of tranquillity in the most vigorous of opposers. Single Bird in the Sky is sure to creep up on you sooner or later in true Beth Orton style and embed itself in your psyche before you even notice its mechanics.

If this album had arms, surely it would stroke you.


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Alistair Cowan – Why Can I See Stars