“Sunshine Walkers” – Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry

4 stars (out of 5)

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I have a huge admiration for great songwriters; crafting songs that perfectly convey little slices of life or eternal truths without knowing whether the song will reach half a dozen or millions of people or whether it will hibernate for years and emerge as a shiny (and profitable) hit. Nick Lowe was virtually potless after having a string of hits in the late seventies/early eighties when “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” appeared on the soundtrack of “The Bodyguard” as a Curtis Stigers cover in 1992. Kimberley Rew’s career took a slightly different trajectory; as a member of Katrina and the Waves, after several years grinding around Air Force bases and Canadian Clubs, he wrote the massive hit “Walking on Sunshine” and Eurovision winner “Love Shine a Light”, and The Bangles had a minor hit with a cover of his song “Going Down to Liverpool”.

After Katrina’s departure in 1999, Kimberley carried on writing and recording with his partner and bass player Lee Cave-Berry. The songs were still superb, but weren’t troubling the charts; this is the period covered by the twenty-one (count them, twenty-one) songs on “Sunshine Walkers”.

Kimberley Rew is a very English lyricist, in the same vein as Ray Davies, Nick Lowe, Chris Difford and Billy Bragg; the songs couldn’t come from another country; there’s a self-deprecation and irony that you don’t find anywhere else. The other thing he has in common with these writers is that they can all conjure great songs out of the most prosaic situations: Chris Difford wrote the lyrics for the Squeeze classic, “Tempted”, on a journey to Heathrow.

And so it goes, on the album’s first song, “The Dog Song”, inspired by seeing dogs on an obstacle course for TV entertainment, is a romp through Chuck Berry territory with humorous lyrics, clever rhymes and perfect harmonies. It gets the album off to a flying start and sets the tone for a bunch of songs covering various musical styles and even a couple of those songwriters’ favourites for occasions that recur annually, “All I Want is You for Christmas” and “Happy Anniversary”.

Of the remaining dozen and a half songs, there’s absolutely no filler and several that push all of my buttons, mainly the quintessentially English ones. “Bloody Old England” is Billy Bragg meets Victor Meldrew homesickness for this grey old country set to a skiffle beat, while the national pride and clever rhymes of “English Road” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an eighties Rockpile album. And let’s not forget “Backing Singer Blues”; I’m not a great fan of the humorous song, but this one actually works. It slightly exaggerates a situation everyone in the business can identify with, and it’s catchy as all hell.

It’s not often that an album can grab my butterfly attention span for twenty-one songs, but “Sunshine Walkers” did it; Kimberley Rew is one of our national treasures whose talents deserve much more exposure.

“Sunshine Walkers” is out now on KL Recording (KL013).