Former guitarist of The Soup Dragons (best known solo hit cover of Rolling Stones b-side I’m Free) and ex-Superstar (not known for much) Jim McCulloch ropes in his famous(ish) friends (former Soup Dragon Ross Sinclair joins in on drumming duties, and ex-Orange Juicer Paul Quinn on guitars) for his second album excursion.
Perhaps better known for his glorious song-writing contributions of melody and melancholia that flooded the Ballad of the Broken Seas album by Mark Lanegan and fellow Scot Isobel Campbell (who returns the favour here with a couple of contributions) this is the second Peppers outing, and a minor chord feast it is too.
The mood is more life-affirming than the gothic country emptiness of Ballad, but possesses a heartfelt lyricism and chord structuring that hints at complexities at work. Shabby Horses kicks off with some swooping acoustics, twanging electric and a galloping clip that is far from shabby. There’s an over-riding whiff of Americana to Domino Mornings. This is where the dreams of the American West meet the West of Scotland in a collision of wide open faces (sic) gazing across the pond to gaze out over the prairie.
The quirky sun-filled harmonies of I Will Always Be The Same sounds like it was beamed from a ’70s kids tv show with its Belle and Sebastian jaunty campfire jolly deceptive simplicity.
This is not an album that shouts to get your attention; it doesn’t need to. This is not an album that takes a radical approach to music. This is just one of those finely honed album that props up the singer-songwriter legend with a worthy addition to the canon of remarkable music made by unassuming-looking blokes. There is nothing to prove beyond what tricks a melody and words can weave on a listener.
Such is the modesty at work here lead single Honest Injun with its deliciously upbeat swoop is fronted by ex-Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie who lends an air of workmanlike honesty to the delivery of this tale of pledging his love to a disbelieving . There are some deft Beatle-esque harmonies at work in the slide guitar work that would put Paul McCartney to shame.
In more reflective mood I Couldn’t Bear The Same Lies rolls prettily along on accordion and glockenspiels, the beautiful It’s Hard To Kill A Bad Thing stripped of its menace on Ballad of The Broken Seas, calls to mind the pastoral reflectiveness of The Lilac Time and the title tracks closes things with a sigh of accordion with a gently strummed-out fag-end of introspection that borders on being a vulnerable comforter of a song,which is no bad thing indeed.
The only sour note is the slightly aimless instrumental Boom Frangipan Jig which meanders along folkily looking for a tune or purpose on this otherwise tight little ship. Similarly Deep South bangs around clumsily and highlights the weakness of McCulloch’s voice as he strains to reach the high notes. But despite these the album continues to shine like a shaft of sunlight through the clouds.
I’d like to think if all were just with the world then this album would expose the Peppers to a wider audience but nearer the mark would be the gentle ripple of an album dropping and resonating through time before becoming a discovered lost classic. Find some time for Domino Mornings to avoid the wait, it’s a pleasure worth tasting.