There has been some quite special folk orientated albums this year, whether a more traditional approached release or a rock/folk fusion, but How Could We Be Wrong? from James J Turner is something special again, an album which quite simply puts most others into the shade. Whereas other albums as good as they truly are, sound written to be a collection of good songs, How Could We Be Wrong? is so organic sounding it is like it has been lived and breathed into existence.
Singer-songwriter Turner is a Liverpool boy and someone who was playing guitar and singing from a very young age and playing gigs at the Liverpool Cavern (the Junior Cavern sessions) from the age of nine. From school he worked on the docks but music still led him through evenings and weekends, growing constantly until he gave up the day job to give it full concentration. He played in several bands, notably Lies all Lies and The Electric Morning, the latter having releases on indie label Probe Records and touring with bands such as Rain Parade, True West, the Long Riders and Mitch Easter’s (REM’s producer) Let’s Active, as well as gaining enthused media interest from people like John Peel and Andy Kershaw. Next he opened his own studio, the renowned Liverpool Hard City Studios where he recorded his acclaimed debut solo album The Believer.
How Could We Be Wrong?, recorded and mixed by Ronnie Stone, finds Turner returning to his roots. The songs thrive in the use of vibrant instruments like mandolin, violin, cello, and accordion alongside acoustic guitars, the combination a warm and stirring union to inspire. The tracks are diverse and continually shifting their stance, whether a more traditional folk breath, to a rock toned romp, or a punk edged brew, each one treats the ear to a natural and fluid presence to light up dark corners whilst evoking thoughts within new emotional shadows. The premise of the tracks stem from the heart of spirituality, people, and honest lives, as well as offering an affinity with nature, all enforcing the organic feel of the album.
The album opens on a stormer of a song in the title track. From its opening scythe of the violin and the compelling whistle kiss the song romps across the ear with energy and attitude. The Irish/Celtic feel is a large voice within the song and alongside the inciteful energy brings thoughts of bands like Flogging Molly to the fore. The violin of Mark Knight is a sonic delight alongside the punchy rhythms of drummer Paul Walsham and the reserved yet boisterous tones of the bass of Etienne Girard but it is the voice of Turner which seals the deal, his plaintive and strong tones thrusting the lyrics and passion forth wonderfully.
The slower more emotive Forever No More sways in next with the strong whistle calls wrapping round the chorus harmonies impressively. Though rarely some songs like here did not light the same fires as others, the more raucous compositions hitting the right spot more consistently, it is down to personal preference only with the tracks still sowing a passion and undeniable impressive craft one cannot ignore or dismiss.
The likes of Walk The Bridge, Beyond The Pain, and Let Love Into Your Heart send one into a kind of reflective rapture, the songs especially like the first of the three, offering melancholic breath to immerse within. This song weaves around the thoughts with gently coaxing guitar chords and a beautiful yet mournful cello sound from Vicky Mutch, its caress an instigator of deep imagination. The second of this trio of songs soars off of a big beating pulse, the beats anthemic whilst the violin is sawing tenderly across the ear for the fullest pleasure, and the last is simply a totally infectious ball of folk n roll.
Out of only impressive tracks further songs like Silver and Gold, Never Been Born, and Once Upon A Time just light more fires of joy, the latter especially impactful. Initially the song did not quite grab the passions but during its thoughtful play it then brought out a glorious barbed melodic hook which returned intermittently. Bringing an element reminding of Echo & The Bunnymen to lie perfectly alongside the more traditional folk sounds and the accordion grace of Henry Priestman, it tipped the balance fully in the favour of the song to emerge as one of the best.
James J Turner has released in How Could We Be Wrong?, one of the best folk rock records of the year, probably the very best. A must listen release.
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