“At the end of September, when the crowds melt away, and the sun turns to rain.”
These are the opening lines to September, the first track on Rob Clarke’s new CD Long Way North. As an opening track it sets the standard by which the rest of the album is invariably measured, and in this case it sets the standard pretty darned high.
From September’s opening refrain of harmonica and guitar I was hooked. This is my kind of music – the type that works its way into the brain so well that you find yourself singing it to yourself in your head or occasionally (as in my case) out loud at work. This actually feels like an ‘end of September’ song, and that for me is the sign of a great song.
September is followed by the title track The Long Way North, which is a top class song and the highlight of the album. I can imagine John Denver or Simon and Garfunkel singing this and having a massive hit with it – yes, it really is that good!
With For A Song we find Rob’s distinctive vocals taking centre stage, while If You’re Looking For Love tells us that those people who are looking for love but haven’t found it yet just aren’t looking in the right places.
Zero Not One is the type of song that has only one thing to say but then sets out to say it in as many different ways as possible. In that respect it reminds me of those educational songs on Sesame Street (“brought to you by the letters R and C, and the number 0”) and I’m not sure it fits as well on the album as the other songs do.
But then we’re back with the really good stuff with one of Rob’s recent popular anthems, Don’t Ever Put Down Your Pen, with gentle string accompaniment from Richard Curren. For creative people everywhere the message is “don’t stop creating”!
The haunting, atmospheric Widowmaker moves us from the end of September right into winter mode, and once again Rob Clarke’s voice comes into its own as music and words create a powerful lament.
The album finishes with Unfaithful Friend, If Everyone is Someone, and the upbeat, folky, and appropriately titled final track Farewell.
At the heart of Rob Clarke’s music is real, solid songwriting. Rob’s songs are brought to life on Long Way North by his fine, often husky, voice, while his guitar playing is three dimensional and full of character. This is a fine album from one of Catacoustic’s regular performers and deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
Long Way North is available to buy using PayPal. Visit Rob’s MySpace profile and click on the CD cover picture.
Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s a Web Development Officer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.