A plaintive slice of British Americana but fuelled as potently by hope as it is shadows, the new album from Billy Vincent is an ear and imagination catcher. Stand On Me brings twelve tracks of streetwise intimacy and heart bred in the darker corners and depths of London. Their seemingly personal tales entangle the listener in sound and narrative and as shadow exploring as they are, come equally built on blind optimism in a host of individual ways for a landscape of vital rock ‘n’ roll.
Stand On Me is the successor to the band’s well-received debut album She and comes via Swiss label Deepdive Records to whom Billy Vincent recently signed. As mentioned its songs are themed around dark times and shadows but also explore the light to be found in the support of others and indeed hope. Co-writers and vocalist/guitarists Billy Barratt and David Vincent talked about Stand On Me before its release, revealing “We thought it important to choose a title that represents the bigger part of the songs on the record, and Stand On Me is one of those reassuring statements that if you’re lucky, someone close to you might say to you when you feel like you’re out of options, letting you know you can lean on them and it’s all going to be alright”. They went on to say, “A lot of these songs are about that, not letting people you care about crumble and disappear with the rain, it’s a positive thing and we wanted to embrace it”.
With the line-up completed by bassist Joseph Kinsey, lead guitarist Adam Roylance, keyboardist Alex Leith, and drummer Dave Rowlands, Billy Vincent open up Stand On Me with Across My Street and a swift caress of guitar and keys spiked by crisp beats. The song soon settles into a vibrantly magnetic stride wrapped in welcoming melodies and equally alluring vocals, they courted by a darker but no less gripping bassline. A southern spice is never far from the surface of the guitar enterprise either whilst an Elvis Costello meets Pretenders air soaks the song to fine effect. Foot tapping and vocal involvement is simply unavoidable as the song offers a masterful start to the album’s persuasion.
A country climate blossoms with the following Sleep When You’re Dead but equally a folkish drama and reflection makes a pungent hue in the sultry presence and emotion of the song too. As in the first track, and most to follow, there is a swing to proceedings, even in its slow croon, which just grabs the imagination as forcibly as the heart spawned lyrics. That catchiness is more unmissable in Hell For Leather. Its opening lure of vocals from across the band is like a fanfare, enticing within the mellower but no less lively stroll of rhythms and melody honed hooks. The track reveals itself to be persistently bewitching, like a snarling fusion of Following Foxes and Seth Lakeman which just gets more rousing and vocally incendiary with every passing minute.
Everybody Else is another with a Costello like texture to its melancholic heart whilst Learning To Drink casts a dark acoustically honed seduction which just grows in sound and strength as its reflective narrative becomes more fiercely soulful. There is enthralling adventure to its evolving scenery and creative drama too, providing ears and emotions with a compelling proposal which as great as it is quickly gets overshadowed by the excellent Loveless Man. With bulkier rhythms and a blues bred lilt to its guitar and melodic endeavour, the song sizzles in ears, the vocals similarly inflamed with their emotive declaration for another lingering highlight.
Both the piano lit, forlornly pensive Dark Are My Days and the crestfallen Waifs & Strays wrap ears in Americana ambience and emotional encouragement, the vocals in the latter especially rosy in their glowing harmonies whilst Cheap simply smoulders in sound and emotion. All three with distinct characters uniting to lure thick attention and pleasure to this part of the album do have to bow to the outstanding You, Me, The World though, a rousing eager stroll with a touch of Denim Snakes’ Russell Toomey to its songwriting and vocal expression. The track is irresistible, stealing top song honours so far and setting another lofty plateau in an increasingly impressive encounter.
The country folk contemplation of Black Suits & Dresses embraces more imposing shadows but immerses them in its own light of optimism and warm soulfulness, leaving the rocking Sheriff Cook to bring the album to a thrilling close. From its first breath, discord and warped strings are toying with the appetite before erupting into a southern lined shuffle of enticing rhythms and smiling melodies skipped over by great grit lined vocals. There is a rebelliousness to the song, an open hint of roguishness which ensures every note and beat has the possibility of breaking ranks and sparking mass discordance. It never happens but assists in making the track increasingly bolder and unpredictable to ultimately give Stand On Me its pinnacle.
Americana and definitely country is not a flavour which gets much attention or eagerness in giving it the opportunity to be part of our ever evolving personal soundtracks here, but Stand On Me just engrosses from start to finish, with particular moments which, as the final song, lights a blaze in ears and appetite. Billy Vincent is a band gearing up to a massive future we suggest with plenty of evidence to be found within Stand On Me.
Stand On Me is available from August 28th via Deepdive Records.
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