Boo Hewerdine, Before - album review

At first glance, 18 tracks seems a hell of a long time to be listening to any collection of softly-strummed folk creations.

The album cover, featuring Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo
The album cover, featuring Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo

But fear not, Ivor Novello-nominated Boo Hewerdine has a little trick up his sleeve with the help of his friend and multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren.

The in-betweens are all short, sharp interludes by Ljunggren to link the material. Really, the album could also bare his name. Only tracks 15 and 18 don't come with their own interlude, so we are really looking at 10 tracks of Hewerdine's musings and eight interlocking instrumentals by Ljunggren. Making sense?

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While Hewerdine's last release - Swimming In Mercury from 2017 - came with a full-band sound, this is much meeker and polite. It sits in a strange sort of folky lullaby world. Like the opening or closing theme to a CBeebies show late in the day.

It makes for a largely blander listen from start to finish. There is little that really grips you and demands to be heard. Perhaps it is one for an early summertime morning with a cuppa to accompany a lazier start to a day. We understand that was the intention, but it never really comes alive .

Silhouette encompasses this fully with its largely vocal presence as orchestral elements dance slowly in the background.

This minimalist approach is mirrored by the artwork. "I love the painting Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo, an incredibly sparse work from the 18th Century that looks like it could have been created now," Hewerdine says. "It was always in my mind during the writing and so I asked The British Museum and they let me use the artwork on the cover."

That explains the vibe.

The Ivor Novello Award-nominated Boo Hewerdine

Continuing the theme, there's the piano-led title track. More purposeful in its sound it does carry more of a kick than some of the others. But it still belongs among softly, softly vibes that don't really match everyday city life.

The light plinking of Starlight again fits the bill, as does Wild Honey, a musical retelling of the poem The Smell Of Gold by Anna Akhmatova.

It's sweet and well-mannered. But unless this is fully your bag, it won't do enough to bring you back beyond one listen.

Rating: 5/10

Boo Hewerdine will play at Wolverhampton's Newhampton Arts Centre on September 21 with support from Wolverhampton singer-songwriter Dan Whitehouse

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