“Copper and Lace” – The Most Ugly Child

3 stars (out of 5)

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The Most Ugly Child ScrollerYou’ve heard the phrase ‘Damning with faint praise’. Yeah? The press release for “Copper and Lace” refers to the drummer and bass player as ‘the tightest rhythm section in Nottingham’, which is a bit like saying that they’ve headlined every honky-tonk in Hockley. It doesn’t really do justice to Matt Cutler and Max Johnson who are indeed a very tight and versatile rhythm, confidently changing style and emphasis mid-song to move songs up through the gears. In fact, the playing is perfect throughout with telling contributions from Nicole J Terry (fiddle) and ‘Big’ Jim Widdop (dobro and pedal steel) helping to create an authentic country feel to “Copper and Lace”.

There’s energy to spare as well; the album’s opener, “What Might Have Been”, comes roaring through like an eighteen-wheeler jokingly telling the loser’s story of missed opportunities. It’s a great way to kickstart the album and a contrast to the raw emotions of the beautiful “Just Another Lesson in Pain” and “Roses”, which pushes all the emotional buttons (it even finishes with a brass ensemble playing “The Old Rugged Cross”). It just about stays the right side of maudlin, but the flirtation with the over-sentimental is pushed beyond breaking point with the album’s closing song “My Pony” taking its cue from the tear-jerker ballads that gave country such a bad reputation in the UK in the sixties and seventies. It’s basically “Old Shep” but given an East Midlands mining twist by making a pit pony the subject of the song. Too cloying for my taste, but I can imagine a certain generation crying into their Mackeson as this plays on the jukebox. Maybe the position at the end of the album places too much emphasis on the song.

And that’s a shame because there’s plenty to like on this album. Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison’s vocals are spot-on throughout and there are some interesting modern takes on the standard country themes of drinking, broken relationships and death.

“Copper and Lace” is self-released on Friday February 24.