Rather unfairly lumped in with the glut of singer-songwriters to emerge in the wake of David Gray, Marc Carroll’s career has reached the stage where he is content to release albums on his own label, having presumably given up any thoughts of becoming as successful as Gray or James Blunt.
The supermarket record buyer’s loss is the music lover’s gain, because the Dublin-born Carroll just keeps getting better and better. Dust Of Rumour is his fourth album and eclipses such previous gems as Ten Of Swords (2003) and World On A Wire (2005).
Written in Los Angeles, Carroll’s new home, but recorded in the UK with engineer Adi Winman and mixer Graham Sutton (vital cogs in the Irishman’s sound), Dust Of Rumour is shot through with the kind of wide-eyed optimism that America instils in young songwriters. Carroll once again handles most instrumental duties, save the odd string section here and there, and like its predecessors the album has a cohesive sense of purpose.
Carroll has injected a rockier element into his songs this time around, characterised by the strident opener Love Will Rule Our Hearts. Clocking in at a brief two minutes, the addictive guitar riff is driven home by a marching rhythm that never lets up. The lyrics don’t say a lot beyond the sentiments of the title, but it’s an atmospheric opening that gets the listener on their toes right away.
The default sound on Dust Of Rumour is late ’60s folk rock � la The Byrds, and Now Or Never and You Just Might Be What I’ve Been Waiting For are glorious pastiches replete with chiming guitars and stacked vocal harmonies. Both tracks sounds like lost outtakes from Teenage Fanclub‘s Songs From Northern Britain. Yes folks, that good.
Of course, Carroll was famously championed by Bob Dylan and at times on Dust Of Rumour you could swear the old goat has stolen into the studio to provide guest lead vocals. The vocals on the string-laden pop of Always and What’s Left Of My Heart have the gravelly charm of late-period Dylan, and although there is an element of hero worship the melodies and lyrics on both tracks more than compensate.
Pleasingly, a vestige of Carroll’s Irish folk roots remains in place. Arguably the best track on the album is Against My Will, which is rooted in the sea shanty tradition with some gorgeous strings lifting the song into Celtic nirvana. Elsewhere, the instrumentals The Boy Who Dreamed and Going Home sound like Van Morrison circa Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart, all Celtic atmospherics and misty-eyed strings.
The wistful Illusion And I is a cosmic meander that hints at a future direction if Carroll ever tires of his McGuinn/Dylan fixation, while the closing A Dark And Lucky Night is a balls to the wall anthem that summons up the spirit of Mike Scott in his ‘Big Music’ phase.
Free of any major label constraints, Marc Carroll has responded with the best album of his short career. Anyone who seriously loves music should repay the man and buy Dust Of Rumour.