Hot Press - - Albums - Nov 11 // John Wal­she

Mark McCam­bridge isn’t the sun­ni­est of song­writ­ers. The de­but long-player from the Bal­ly­mena na­tive and for­mer Holy In­no­cents mem­ber’s lat­est project deals with the thorny themes of “death, age­ing and fam­ily”. Yet, when it’s de­liv­ered as beau­ti­fully as this, both lyri­cally and mu­si­cally, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed.

McCam­bridge is the lyri­cist, but for the lovely mu­si­cal may­hem, he’s joined by long-time friend Ben McAuley, as well as Richard Hill (pre­sum­ably not the English rugby team man­ager), James Heaney and Jonny Ashe, as the Belfast­based col­lec­tive com­bine aching Amer­i­cana with swirling ro­mance. They veer from bed­sit con­fes­sion­als to Nashville-soaked torch bal­lads, and even man­age to set a Pablo Neruda poem to mu­sic with­out it sound­ing like pre­ten­tious twad­dle (‘A Fish­er­man’).

If you think the fe­male vo­cal­ist on ‘Twisted Ar­row’ sounds fa­mil­iar, you’re spot on, as McCam­bridge duets with none other than for­mer Pixie and Breeder supreme, Kim Deal, on a gor­geous slice of Amer­i­can coun­try, com­plete with aching strings. But the qual­ity of th­ese com­po­si­tions is so uni­formly high that it’s McCam­bridge who is the real deal, from the sad dreami­ness of ‘Dark Stream’, like Ok­ervil River and Mir­a­cle Le­gion locked in a stu­dio to­gether, to ‘The Force Of Her Will’, a ten­der duet with Ellen Tur­ley that’s as del­i­cate as a flower in win­ter.

‘A Crow’ is a fu­ne­real dirge, but a lovely one, particularly when the cho­ral back­ing vo­cals en­ter the fray, while ‘A Man Of My Age’ brims with dis­arm­ing hon­esty about grow­ing older, deal­ing with writer’s block and try­ing to com­bine be­ing a song­writer and a dad: “This drunken stu­por my wife says is ob­scene/ It’s up­set­ting the kids, Mark, they need your com­pany/ So I sing a few songs to give them some re­lief.”

‘The Bro­ken Light’ is a weath­er­beaten waltz, im­bued with real-life ro­mance that’s closer to David Gray’s ‘De­bauch­ery’ than any­thing from Mills & Boon, while ‘I Heard Him Leaving’ views a re­la­tion­ship breakup from the point of view of a jilted fe­male: “Oh I’ll kill him, I’ll take the kitchen knife/ I’d rather be a widow than an un­wanted wife.”

Per­haps Ar­borist are a lit­tle too in thrall to their Amer­i­cana in­flu­ences in places, but for the most part,

Home Burial is a stun­ningly beau­ti­ful de­but and one of the finest records pro­duced on th­ese shores all year.


Home Burial Kirk­in­rola Records

‘The Bro­ken Light’

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