Feb 23, 2023
By Ian Rushbury
You can’t knock David Brewis’ work ethic. Not content with cranking out consistently great albums with Field Music and School of Language, he’s stepped up to the plate to do a solo album. Well, if it worked for all the members of KISS…
The Soft Struggles is a step away from Field Music’s user-friendly indie-pop-prog. Not a very big step though. This album tips its hat to that band’s 2018 record Open Here, in as much as Sarah Hayes who played some stellar flute on that album, does a similar magic trick here. Her lyrical playing coils nicely around some early ’70s folk jazz stylings of the rest of the ensemble. She’s particularly effective on “Tomorrow,” which may make listeners of a certain age think of Pentangle. Google them—they were great.
If you’re an aficionado of the early output of the Island Records label, this is right up your alley. You can almost picture Joe Boyd lurking at the back of the room while Richard Thompson nods his head in approval. Everything grooves along in a very relaxed and agreeable way, with only the single “The Last Day” being even close to strident. That’s not to say that The Soft Struggles is limp—there’s some strong and purposeful instrumentation at play—from the jazzy, piano-led opener “Can We Put it in the Diary?” to the vaguely Neapolitan closer “The King of Growing Up” everyone on the record is playing at the top of their game. There’s a gorgeous live feel to the recordings that gives the whole collection a rich, organic feel. Music played by human beings. It’ll never catch on.
The only downside of having a fairly flawless back catalogue is that people start looking for the crown to slip. Or a chink in the armor. Or a misguided collaboration. Well, in this instance, the naysayers will have to keep looking. The Soft Struggles is the antidote to this car crash of a decade so far. Thank you, Mr Brewis. (www.field-music.co.uk)
Author rating: 8/10
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