Album Reviews

The Secret Show – Impressionist Road Map Of The West

(Atlantic) UK release date: 29 January 2007


Some of the unlikeliest candidates have flirted with trad country over the years, from The Byrds to Jack White to Cerys Matthews.

Even Gothier-than-Goth Gothfathers The Mission went through a phase of wearing Stetsons and bootlace ties but now to prove that dead men really can wear plaid, it’s the turn of Funeral For A Friend frontman Matt Davies. Sorry, Matthew Davies here, now that he’s all growed up and sensitive.

Yes, that’s right, Funeral For A Friend. Yeeees, that Funeral For A Friend. The Welsh hardcore guys. The ones who wear metal t-shirts without any sense of irony and sit on the genre labels shelf somewhere between emo and Castle Donnington. Admittedly they fall into that rare breed of bands who, like Nirvana and Meatloaf, are beloved of metallers and yet actually have some tunes, but all the same they’re not the first band whose lead singer you’d expect to nip off for a bit of a campfire singalong when the rest of the lads weren’t looking.

Not to worry though, because the result is completely listenable and completely worth the effort, bluesy and rootsy and very good fun. It’s perhaps a bit of a shame that he didn’t take a little more of the angst and anger from FFAF’s back catalogue and go down the country noir route taken by the likes of Nick Cave but he could have done a lot, lot worse. Impressionist Road Map Of The West is very traditional, very cowboy country with cheery mandolins, jangly guitars and a danceability that should carry it high into the charts.

It’s trying to be neither pretentious nor too clever and in an industry awash with subgenres from alt.country to twisted folk to folktronica to country noir to Americana to whatever else is bubbling up to the surface, there’s something to be said for that. This is simple country, of the type Garth Brooks or even John Denver might deliver if we ever bothered to listen. There’s even a lovely lady, Lianne Francis, providing accompanying vocals on Grand Ole Opry style duets such as The Girl From Chapel Hill and The Widow.

We Blaze A Trail is a great old cowboy singalong, the title track is a lovely little acoustic ballad and slower songs such as The Duke and Old Blacktop drip with dustbowl harmonies. At times there are more obvious influences to be heard, such as a definite Rolling Stones echo on Everyone’s A Critic, but all of them weave together well to serve up a perfectly formed whole.

The real joy of this album is the genuine love that shines through for a type of music that’s a million miles away from Davies’s day job. He’s not doing this for the record company, he’s not doing it for his fans, and he’s not doing it because it might help shift more Funeral For A Friend albums, he’s doing it because he wants to and what better reason is there in the world to make music?

It’s not the world’s most original album, it’s not pushing any musical boundaries but it is dripping with genuine affection. (Ten Gallon) Hats off to him for that one.


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The Secret Show – Impressionist Road Map Of The West