Monday, October 7, 2013

Album review: Black Coffee by Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes

Lachlan Bryan's debut solo album, Shadow of the Gun, was always going to be a hard act to follow. Bryan had previously released Ballad of a Young Married Man with his band, The Wildes, and branched into darker, more complex lyrical territory on his brilliant solo release. He was clearly maturing as a songwriter and as a singer. Sometimes that is where artists stop - they get out one great album and then find the creative well is empty. Happily - very happily for listeners - that has not been the case for Mr Bryan.

Black Coffee is an eclectic collection of songs and stories that all work together to show an artist who is continuing to develop his skills, interests and tastes. There are differences: it is gritty where Shadow of the Gun was elegant; it showcases several individual stories where the songs on Shadow of the Gun often seemed to reveal aspects of its creator, whether that was his intention or not. 

Bryan has deployed The Wildes to play on this album, so it is legitimate now to bring in comparisons to Ballad of a Young Married Man, and there is a progression there too. Ballad had some rough edges, whereas Black Coffee has a seamlessness that suggests that the band came back together fairly effortlessly. The sound is enhanced by the addition of Melody Pool on backing vocals on several songs. 

On paper some of Bryan's lyrics may not seem like much - but that is so often the case with lyrics. They require the singer to bring them to life and shade in the nuances, to tell the listener what is really going on. Bryan's voice is of equal power and value as his songwriting; it reveals - or betrays - pain; it howls and grunts and heckles. It is a rich instrument and he uses it well.

Black Coffee has been released just over a year and a half after Shadow of the Gun. Bryan has set himself quite a pace if he intends to release so regularly, but he seems more than up to the task. In ten albums' time we will, no doubt, be able to trace his creative arc and point to these early albums as the start of a glorious curve. For right now, though, Black Coffee is a fantastic release in and of itself.

Black Coffee is out now.

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