Hold Yourself Tight is the debut album of To Bear Sir, the solo project of someone who has already, like for so many others, made a major impact on our ears and passions. The creative provocateur constantly stirring up the imagination is Welsh songwriter/vocalist/musician Russell Toomey though you might know him better as the creator/frontman of My Red Cell, Innercity Pirates, and Denim Snakes; three bands which all made a striking impact on the UK underground scene with their individual sounds and characters, each deserving far more attention and success than found.
It is a height of recognition which just might be sparked by To Bear Sir. Each of Toomey’s bands has even with some strains of similarity been wholly unique propositions to each other and indeed any band around them but To Bear Sir is a gulf away from those before it and just as impressive.
Debut album, Hold Yourself Tight reveals bare intimacy not knowingly heard in its creator’s work before, the songs giving greater meaning and echo to the name of the project. The diverse array of tracks and styles breeding its songs come together to create one of the most haunting, emotionally open, and generally irresistible propositions heard. From its first breath, the release bewitches, its heart akin to the listener’s sharing melancholy and despairs mutually known and felt.
Produced by Todd Campbell, Hold Yourself Tight opens up with Mother I’m Sorry. As solemn strings rise to share emotive fingers on ears, that heartrending air is swiftly inescapable, only thickening as a lone guitar strum takes over with its own shadowed melody. Toomey’s distinctive tones soon follow bringing a dark blues haunting and seduction with it reflected in the sounds hugging his presence. Funereal in gait, compelling in regret and touch, the song is sheer melancholic beauty.
It is a stunning start quickly matched by Medi-Monster, a slightly livelier affair in energy with brooding shadows to its wiry melodies. Vocals are a wonderfully dispirited incitement, magnetic and mournfully introspective but luring full participation with the song’s almost disturbingly catchy chorus. It is impossible not to get physically and emotionally involved with either of the first pair of proposals or with the albums title track which follows. Its rhythmic shuffle has a touch of Fatboy Slim to it making a kinetic canvas for the dark folk serenade of voice and melody. A blend of contrasting textures, the track seduces hips and thoughts with ease even if not quite matching up to the lofty heights of its predecessors.
The new single from To Bear Sir is next, a song which could not be a better teaser for project and album if it tried. The Begging Ends Here is superb, rhythmically shamanic whilst cinematically and indeed emotionally so dark that it throbs with drama. It’s predominantly minimalistic body is enriched by flames of guitar with Toomey’s earnest croon inciting greater intensity in the heart and raw rock ‘n’ roll of the song. People are rightfully drooling about the new ex-Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman’s new single Mississippi, a song actually in similar vein to The Begging Ends Here and just as stirring and thrilling is Toomey’s essential treat.
Strings again lay their suggestive hands on ears as the sorrowful, hope searching Too Late closes in next, its sentiment and sad grace raw potency. It is an essence intensified even more in Loves That One Thing, an emotional incitement of voice and piano trespassing on personal truth and fresh wounds.
The Walk has a low key country scented breath next, a flavour bring new hues to another increasingly alluring mourn and disquieting charm whose persuasive elements conjure 3 Years to similarly enjoyable heights with keys and voice once more an enticing union as darker hues cradle their engaging solemnity. Each of the two pulls ears and thoughts into their world before the bluesy dance of It’s Not Over Until I Say So makes its energetic play. It is a track which did not initially convince as fully as others within the album, though its bursts of scuzzy delta blues guitar quickly had the appetite licking its lips, but lingered maybe more than most to persistently tempt and subsequently seduce.
Hold Yourself Tight is closed by the rueful yet accepting and occasionally hopeful Dream, a captivation echoing the heart of the album in its brief absorbing minutes. There were certain expectations waiting for this album because of past triumphs and not one of them was fed. To Bear Sir is a whole new unique adventure from Russell Toomey, a bold and personal one which is really rather special and deserves your intrigue at the very least.
Hold Yourself Tight will be released the first week of May.
Upcoming live dates:
20th of April – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff with Palace and Willie J Healey
3rd of May – Riverside Tavern, Newport
10th of May – The Monarch, Camden
Pete RingMaster 04/03/2017
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