Press play on Travelling Companion, the new album from The Good Intentions, and from the first notes of the opening track Gold Watch And Chain I guarantee you’ll be whisked away from your comfy sofas, iPhones, chippy teas and SKY TV packages to a world of railroads, jailhouses, chain gangs, and broken hearts in small town America.
With Travelling Companion, R Peter Davies, Gabrielle Monk and Francesco Roskell present us with a collection of original songs that feel instantly familiar. It’s easy to see that Davies, who wrote all the songs (bar the lyrics of one), is influenced and inspired by many of the greats of country music from across the years.
Hank’s Last Ride is about Hank Williams and includes phrases from song titles (how many can you spot?), plus a short yodel at the end, nicely done. In other songs I can hear echoes of Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, The Eagles, and Johnny Cash. It’s no wonder The Good Intentions won Best Americana Act at the 2011 British Country Music Awards. And I can’t help wondering… if these guys came from Nashville, TN, instead of Liverpool, UK, would they just call it ‘Country’ and be done with it? And surely they’d be international Country superstars by now?
It’s hard to pick standout tracks because so many of them are genuinely very good, from the imagery of A Driver’s Farewell, to the foot stomping Black Dog Blues; from the hopelessly optimistic Hometown Girl, to my favourite Pull The Jailhouse Down.
And the musicianship is spot on too, recorded, as most of it was, by Rick Shea in California. The variety is song styles is matched by the variety of instrumental accompaniments, from Shea’s mandolin on Gold Watch and Chain to Greg Leisz’s pedal steel and dobro on Colfax Town; and from Dave Jackson’s piano setting a deep south chapel feel to I Dreamed About You, to Brantley Kearns’ and Aubrey Richmond’s bluegrass fiddle playing.
The final two songs are worth mentioning. Angel Train is a beautiful song about the loss of a loved one. Although it’s not stated in the sleeve notes, I’d be amazed if it wasn’t written in memory of Francesco’s wife Janet who sadly passed away last year, and to whom the album is dedicated. The closing track Paul The Apostle includes Ioan Gruffudd reading a passage from the Welsh Bible, a surprising inclusion that works really well.
Whether you call it Americana, country, or folk, Travelling Companion is a top album from a band at the top of their game.
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.