Sometimes, simplicity is the key. Some people don’t need endless dance remixes or an insatiable need to appear on the front cover of Heat magazine. Sometimes, an acoustic guitar and a voice is enough, if you’ve got little things called songs.
The resolutely unstarry Roger Davies, a singer/songwriter from Huddersfield obviously subscribes to this theory. His debut album Littletown, recorded in no more than six days, and contains 12 songs which are touching, articulate and warm, played by just Davies and Simon Shaw on bass. In such a stripped down setting, the songs obviously have to be strong enough to stand up and Davies doesn’t disappoint on that score.
After leaving his native West Yorkshire, Davies travelled to Dundee, hung around with Snow Patrol before studying at the Brighton Institute of Arts. There, he picked up a couple of influential fans in former Squeeze man Chris Difford and former Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart.
Just one listen to Littletown shows exactly what Messrs Difford and Stewart found so appealing about Davies. This is mainly acoustic folk, which inevitably brings to mind Bob Dylan, but also other famous names, such as Bruce Springsteen.
The debt to Springsteen is noticeable in the album’s title track, where like The Boss before him, Davies tells of a willingness to escape his “little town” and make his fame and fortune in the big city. In an endearing twist though, unlike Springsteen’s dreamers though, Davies ends up returning home as he misses his mother’s cooking and his feather bed!
It’s this down to earth approach that makes Davies such a good listen. Local places like Brighouse’s Rayner Road gets a whole song dedicated to it, while another West Yorkshire landmark Emley Moor is also mentioned. This isn’t stereotypically ‘Northern’ music though that will leave anyone south of Birmingham cold. Rather, it’s likely to appeal to anyone with an ear for a good tune.
Other high points of the album include Don’t Fool Me, an exploration of the psyche of a young ‘girl about town’ (“have you seen her in the street/in just a mini-skirt and her high heels…acting like she don’t want anything/but she don’t fool me”), James Dean, a tale of Davies’ heroes while he was growing up, and a collection of touchingly honest love songs such as Heart’s Desire and Hard To Believe It which are guaranteed to melt the stoniest of hearts.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Davies comes up when teamed up with a full band, which is a situation which should occur if Littletown achieves the success it deserves to. In a world where a chorus-friendly ringtone is deemed more important than ever before, this debut album is a reminder of the power of good songwriting.