Liam Davison – A Treasure of Well-Set Jewels

Liam Davison is best known as guitarist for Mostly Autumn. When he left the band at the end of 2006 he stated that he was to work on a solo album. In the end it would be three years after he rejoined the band before the album was to see the light of day.

Liam is something of an enigmatic figure on stage with Mostly Autumn. He prefers to shun the spotlight and lurk at the back of the stage; but his playing is not that of a typical rhythm guitarist, playing melodic fills and lead runs rather than merely strumming chords. His name has only appeared a couple of times in MA’s songwriting credits to date, both for folk-flavoured numbers. But he’s also been playing a live improvisation on tour with echoes of Robert Fripp. Which made it difficult to predict the direction his solo album might take.

The music varies from the indie-flavoured opening hard rocker “Ride the Seventh Wave”, the electronica loops on “Into the Setting Sun”, and the acoustic ballad “One in the Lifetime”. But throughout there’s a strong emphasis on atmospheric progressive rock with a very strong Pink Floyd flavour. Standouts for me are “Eternally Yours”, ending with that epic slide solo featured in the album’s promo video, and “Heading Home”, with it’s wonderful interplay between Liam’s soaring lead guitar, Iain Jennings’ swirling Hammond organ and Paul Teasdale’s propulsive bass riff. It’s a big, rich, cinematic sound, superbly engineered and mixed by John Spence.

Liam shares vocals with Heather Findlay and Anne-Marie Helder, and the three distinctively different voices complement each other well. While Liam sings much of the lead vocals, several songs are duets between Liam and either Anne-Marie or Heather with some great use of harmony. One exception is “Once in a Lifetime”, sung solely by Heather, who also contributed the lyrics. Heather and Anne-Marie give excellent performances, but neither of them steal the show, this is still very much Liam’s album, showcasing his songwriting, and above all his superb lead guitar. If you like it when the solos can last for two or three minutes, and are still good enough not to outstay their welcome, you will love this album.

While much has been made of Heather’s and Anne-Marie’s contributions, on an album like this the instrumental supporting cast are just as important. In particular, Liam’s Mostly Autumn colleague Iain Jennings excels himself on keys. It’s the sort of all-enveloping cinematic sound we heard on early Mostly Autumn albums, and as such provides the perfect instrumental foil for Liam’s own playing.

This is a superb album, and while it’s only February, it’s a potential candidate for album of the year. Like many independent releases, it’s got a general retail release in March, but is available online now

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