Album Reviews

Pete Greenwood – Sirens

(Heavenly) UK release date: 25 August 2008

Does the world need another sensitive singer-songwriter armed with an acoustic guitar and a clutch of melodic folk-based songs. All these questions and more will be aimed at the Leeds-based Pete Greenwood, but it is to his credit that he manages to rise above the constraints of the genre to deliver a charming, old-fashioned album.

Greenwood’s CV includes The Loose Salute alongside Mojave 3 regular Ian McCutcheon. Something of that band’s country rock leanings show up on Sirens, but for the most part the album is rooted in an acoustic folk style.

The title track sets the stall for what is to follow. This gentle country shuffle opens the album on a laidback note, with tasteful piano, steel guitar and harmonica adding a plangent note to proceedings. Greenwood’s vocals are functional and perfectly suited to the mood of a downbeat confessional.

The ensuing Negotiations And Last Words is early Bob Dylan all over, from the sprightly finger picking to the references to old blues songs and Greenwood’s use of a faux American accent (it should come as no surprise that large parts of this album are reminiscent of Hour Of The Bewilderbeast-era Badly Drawn Boy).

I Used To Be In A Band is a neat kiss-off to Loose Salute that boasts one of the album’s best lines: “Wear your t-shirt again and I’ll wear a suit in the sun/And you’ll think of Wilson and I’ll think of Manson as best friends”.

The jaunty Any Given Day has shades of early period Donovan and serves as a showcase for Greenwood’s impressive acoustic playing, while Wine And Rye bears the album’s prettiest melody line to support a lyric full of quiet foreboding.

After the brief instrumentals A and B, the album explodes into life on the country rocker Bats Over Barstow. A psyched-out guitar solo ups the ante and indicates an interesting new direction, but this thrilling interlude is very much a brief respite from the general mood of the album.

Greenwood returns to his one man and a guitar shtick on Heavy Eva and The Bitter End, two songs that sound more like songwriting exercises than the heartfelt laments that were surely intended.

Fortunately, Greenwood saves two of his best songs to last. The eloquent lament For A Girl Like Mine features some exquisite finger work, while the delightful Penny Dreadful closes the album on an upbeat note.

Sirens has already created a minor stir with UK critics and Greenwood has backed the hype up with a string of excellent live shows. To be realistic though, this album is not going to trouble the charts and may even struggle to find a slot with Radio 2 (the saviour of many a lovelorn troubadour). Its charms are too subtle and Greenwood too self-effacing to raise Sirens above a minor cult classic.

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