Ten Objects reviews

FATEA

Not the former bushy eye-browed Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, but a singer-songwriter from Edinburgh, this is his seventh studio album (one of which was all instrumental) and one that nods to advancing years when bereavements, navigating relationships and life ringing its alarm clock start to occupy your thoughts.

The album inspired by The History Of The World In 100 Objects and adopting a vaguely conceptual approach of the central character reflecting on what has led him to where he is, featuring Toby Wilson on keening pedal steel, the country slow waltzing ‘Makes Sense To Me’ opens proceedings with a song about a love cynic having his heart and eyes opened. The musical mood quickly changes for the relaxed, title track and the start of a tentative romance, huskily sung (evocative of Pete Atkin) and backed by acoustic guitar, jazzy hand percussion and cello, it’s probably the only time you’ll hear Brian Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ mentioned in a lyric.

Things gets bluesy on the harp wailing ‘Lump Sum’ wherein out hapless hero finds that coming into a tidy stash suddenly makes him very attractive to the opposite sex while, by contrast, the fingerpicked ‘Anniversary’ with its oboe and cor anglais stands as a reminiscence on loss, presumably through death, as he sings how there’s a “hole in the shape of you” in his and his friends’ lives.

The spirit of Randy Newman hovers over ‘Too Many Nights From The Sea’, a piano ballad reflecting on how he no longer craves for the days of being footloose and fancy free before shooting at the tear ducts with ‘If I Could Be With You’ which joins the ranks of ‘The Living Years’ and ‘Everything I Own’ in the son missing his father and wishing they were still here ranks.

I’m sure many out there have found themselves talking about their problems to a stranger rather than the person that matters, and that’s where, perched on a barstool with harmonium and harmonica in the background, the mournful ‘Everybody Has A Story’ comes in.

The darker side of things lurks in the shadows of the spare piano-backed and cello stroked ‘Don’t Ask Me’ about trapping someone in an abusive relationship, leading into the nigh six-minute acoustic strummed, liltingly and slightly Latin melodic ‘Other Things’, a musing on how, we distract ourselves from facing reality by escaping into comfort blankets like television or technology.

It ends with ‘Gordon (Down On The Tracks)’, a slow waltzing campfire hobo lament etched on acoustic guitar and with the sampled sounds of owls and dawn chorus, as it tells of the titular homeless figure, curled up in a sleeping bag on the railroad tracks, offering no explanation as to what brought him so low or any hope that he’ll see out the night, but how sleeping in the presence of danger and “to know that you wait with no time to lose brings a moment of grace”.

A quietly contemplative album that needs you to listen to the words, it’s not going to turn his world around, but it might just make yours feel a little less lonely in its shared emotions. A life that’s sometimes happy, sometimes sad, unlike his namesake, Lamont has his books well-balanced.

Mike Davies http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/reviews/NormanLamont/

Spirit of Progressive Rock

This is his sixth album, or eight if you include an instrumental album and compilation too. Americana-folk singer-songwriter, his songs are direct and emotional to “mean something to people who’ve been round the block a bit”. These aren’t a young person’s songs” (Lamont himself). A name still associated with a previous Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer with a touch of Addams Family about him, this namesake deserves to rise to a higher profile.

Cleverly orchestrated songs (pedal steel, or cello, or oboe and cor anglais, piano, harmonica) help give a contemplative, sober depth to the understated, personal songs. Inspired by a book called “The History of the World in 100 Objects”, this is a clever narrative where we find him “walking backwards into tomorrow” tracing life through key points back to an unsure and unsafe present. Time-worn narrative vocals, finger-picking folk, acoustic americana, old blues and life combine into a seasoned, comfortable yet thought-provoking album. Sombre.

RnR Magazine Vol2 Issue 80

I wondered what this album would be like? A set of tunes about post-Thatcherite Keynesian economics? Fortunately this isn’t the latest disc from John Major’s badger-haired Chancellor of the Exchequer. Rather it’s an Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter with an interesting lyrical turn of phrase. 

The ten songs presented on Ten Objects contain some clever and insightful lyrics set to a broadly acoustic backing. Some tracks on this solo album are just that – simply Lamont and an acoustic guitar; others are enhanced by a smattering of well-chosen accompaniment. Of these, I preferred the latter, which gave a more rounded setting to the words. They also distracted from Lamont’s somewhat laissez-faire relationship with the melody, a trait which itself became distracting by the end of the album.
There are some stand-out tracks here, notably Too Many Nights From The Sea which benefits from some beautiful duet vocals from Tricia Thom. The subject matter of the songs is emotional and planted firmly on the less-sunny side of the street, but the music doesn’t always do the material full justice. For example Lump Sum is a clever spin on the gold-digger but its twelve-bar blues backing is ultimately underwhelming.

Trevor Raggatt

Andrew C Ferguson

Okay: full disclosure first. Norman Lamont is a friend of mine, and I was in at the ground floor of the creation of the title track of this album, as I’ve blogged about previously, as was Gerry Callaghan, who I met first at that Bridge of Orchy weekend. The next fun creative thing I’ve got on my calendar is meeting up with them both to discuss a mutual project – of which more soon, I hope.

Having said that, having the inside track on how it came to be in its current form may be an advantage here, so bear with me.

Hot on the heels of Norman’s last album, In Another Life, the original plan – at least on the part of Gerry, Norman’s producer, was an ‘acoustic album.’ By that I’m pretty sure he meant an album of Norman’s acoustic guitar and voice: as it turned out, it wasn’t to turn out that way.

Nevertheless, the contrast between this and Norman’s last album, In Another Life, is quite strong. In Another Life was a full band abum, involving all of the Heaven Sent, as well as many, many more musicians – some of the songs had a horn section, for goodness sake!

On Ten Objects, by comparison, the instrumentation is relatively sparse: an oboe and a cor anglais here, a harmonica or a harmonium there. On some of the tracks at least, that additional colour is indispensable: I can’t imagine, for example, ‘Makes Sense to Me,’ without Toby Wilson’s gorgeous, keening, pedal steel guitar. For those of you, like me, who grew up distrustful of the lashings of pedal steel lavished on old-fashioned, rhinestone-studded, Country with a capital C songs, its subtle use here is especially welcome. I want that guy’s number, Norman!

‘Makes Sense to Me’ is new, to me at least, and perhaps if it had been acoustic guitar only I would have loved it as much as the strong, open-hearted opener to the album. Elsewhere, however, older songs are given fresh treatments. ‘Anniversary,’ which I first picked up in its incarnation on All the Time in Heaven, was apparently originally an ‘acoustic, finger-picky’ version until it got the more atmospheric treatment on that previous album. Here it goes back towards its earlier incarnation, with the crucial addition of Tricia Thom’s harmonies, and the aforementioned oboe and cor anglais giving additional adornment. When Norman and Tricia sing together – as they did at the album launch a week past Thursday – hairs go up on the back of this reviewer’s neck.

No surprise, then, that another of my favourite tracks is the other one that feature’s Tricia’s vocals, ‘Too Many Nights from the Sea.’ A slow, gospelly blues, powered only by James Whyte’s gentle piano, it’s lovely.

I should have said already that Gerry’s engineering and production is absolutely crystalline, no mean feat when dealing with the range of acoustic instruments on display here. And knowing Gerry, that’ll be the result of many hours of attention to detail.

I’m not going to go through every track on the album, but the other highlight for me is ‘Don’t Ask Me,’ another piano-led song of melancholy, with cello from Sarah Whiteside adding warmth and tone.

Most of all, though, the other tracks cluster thematically around the song that was the inspiration for the album, ‘Story of a Love in Ten Objects.’ For anyone that’s experienced the bereavement of someone close – which could, of course, include relationship breakdown – there’s that instant recognition: what on earth to do with all the stuff? Most of us would profess to having no love, or need, for material things. However, when those things belonged to the person who’s departed, they come freighted with meaning, even if they’re an ugly candlestick an uncle made.

I think this is one of my favourites of Norman’s albums, and I’ll stick my neck out further – I don’t believe the songs needed any more than the instrumentation they got. Having said that, I could definitely imagine a couple with a full band behind them, so I don’t know … check out the album here … I can thoroughly recommend the extra goodies you get with the De Luxe Edition…