Green Man Music Review

Another stunning review, huge thanks to Dave Franklin, glad so many of you are enjoying 'River Man'!

River Man – Anna Neale

An acoustic guitar driven concept album about the lives of those living in and around Pompeii, incorporating Roman literature and Islamic religious text? Any takers? After such an opening salvo of a description you would expect to find yourself running a mile from some earnest prog-fest or twee hippydom’s flaky sentiments and rightly so. But it doesn’t have to be this way and thankfully the artist in question, Anna Neale, not only pulls the concept off but does so with grace and more importantly accessibility.

Okay, maybe the term concept album is me being deliberately rhetorical, a better term might be an album of concepts relating to the human condition and explored through a certain time and place but still of a universal nature. Love, life, loss and all that sort of thing. Behind the pre-Raphaelite imagery of the cover is a collection of well-crafted and well-balanced songs that run from the earthy and tribal vibe of the title track through gentle guitar ballads (Light – a Who Knows Where The Time Goes for the 21st Century?) and arabesques (All of This) to the pop-accessible (Everything) frantic acoustic rock (False Consciousness) and even slow-burning anthems (Fire.)

And as good as the songs themselves are it is the treatment and Jez Larder’s production of them that really drives the album into the end-zone (pardon the sports metaphor). More noticeable on some of the more reflective moments on the album, it is the string washes that form a sumptuous backdrop and the smooth Danny Thompson-esque bass lines that dance sultrily behind the melody that really hits home. That’s not to say the more direct song elements, such as the guitars and various keyboardary (it’s a word) have anything to worry about, but often the devil is in the detail.

On top of all the instrumentation Anna’s voice is a wonderfully versatile instrument in it’s own right, swooning delicately, offering wistful tones and following the albums marvellous dynamic shifts to deliver full on stadium style euphoria as required, again listen to Fire for the full range of her vocal prowess. Stunning!

And after talking about how good the overall product is, lets just reel things back to basics and point out that underneath all the wonderful enhancements and extra players that the studio allows you to indulge in, lets not forget that these are cracking acoustic songs in their own right and it’s easy to see that even if you have to strip things back, as the costs and logistics of being on the road often demand, you still have a set of songs that would easily stand their ground alongside comparable peers of the genre, artists such as Suzanne Vega or  K T Tunstall.

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