Hailing from Limerick, guitarist Don Mescall’s first offering, Innocent Run, is full of soft rock, country- blues narratives, that all sound slightly samey. Sentimental, bordering on mawkish, Mescall is the man of the humble – or should that be humdrum – meandering ballad. I only knew he was Irish from the CD blurb otherwise you’d imagine he was the offspring of some bizarre three-way coitus between Curtis Stigers, Jon Bon Jovi and Counting Crows.
But to his credit, he has a powerful, strong voice and there is real heart behind every word. If first albums are transparent biographies, then what you grasp from Innocent Run is that Mescall is still reeling from a relationship that ended badly and still dealing with the associated feelings of loss, pain and regret. It’s not cheery and I can’t tell if it grows on you or just wears you down.
The first three songs are upbeat, sing-a-long, radio friendly tunes. Trouble Is is catchy, but Mescall doing his best Curtis Stigers impression, unleashing a passionate voice for the full force of the chorus. Turning Left in LA, has a pretty cool radio sample on it, taken from a fictional traffic news broadcast, but sadly lacks authenticity. Beautiful Regret, about that girl that drives you crazy, is a simple, jolly foray as is the final song Speed of Love.
Yet the album features more heavyweight ballads than sprightly songs. You Don’t Love Me explores the unhappy ever after of a marriage meltdown – it is a real outpouring of grief and will resonate with the loveless. Grace of God is a trite ‘save the world, make poverty history’ ode but is still pleasant enough to get airplay. From A Son To A Father is soulful and impassioned, but the title track Innocent Run feels like something that Sting would sing. It’s the soul-baring, mournful tracks that Mescall makes his name with on this album – songs such as Why Didn’t I Know, Not Enough Rainbows and Not Coming Back.
Taking on the universal theme of heartache, Mescall is pitted against stiff competition. Damien Rice‘s O was a deeply affecting album and Mescall strives for a similar kind of stature and achieves it in the haunting bonus track Shadow Of A Doubt. It reeks of Rice, right down to the part whispered lyrics but it is beautifully melancholic and one of the few songs on Innocent Run that will keep drifting back into your head.