Voted Young Artist of the Year consecutively from 2020 through to 2022 at the UK Blues Awards, this year it was time to play with big boys and Connor Selby has been nominated for Acoustic Act of the Year, Instrumentalist of the Year, Blues Vocalist of the Year and Blues Artist of the Year.
This here’s a deluxe edition of his self-titled album, with four brand-new bonus tracks added, and the PR spiel informs me that the songs “are little vignettes of the different styles of music that inspire him”. Opening and calling time with a couple of numbers each extending over six minutes, if he doesn’t grab your attention from the get-go there’s a chance you’re not gonna last the whole 14 tracks of this deluxe edition. But young Mr Selby appears to know that, as the first one’s titled ‘I Can’t Let You Go’.
With a kick of the drums, an organ swells, there’s a sideways shuffle, and I’m instantly getting a classic Islands Records; as the verse ensues, I can hear more precisely that Selby is in fact channelling; ‘Innocent Times’ from Eric Clapton’s No Reason To Cry album, but general chord structure aside this is a more straight blues affair, with a little jazz precision duly noted. Saying it all in the title, but expressing it no less sincerely as he sings, a serious deepish voice with clipped expression relates that eternal doom love affair tale, the fretwork that rises in extemporised anguish is similarly shorn of any overwrought notation, and I’m generally enjoying the earnest smooth delivery.
With a flip of the coin, we get the upbeat funky guitar and big band feel of ‘Falling In Love Again’, horns swinging freely, lead vocals crooning, and female backing chiming in nicely, a classy organ solo and a choice guitar one that takes its time and doesn’t disappoint. With the return of some slow blues in ‘If You’re Gonna Leave Me’, we begin to suspect Selby has a real problem making a relationship going, albeit with this piano-tinkling number he tends to suspect his lover has “another man”. ‘Emily’ follows and is a fun little ditty, I’m again getting that early Island vibe but the number itself is a Southern rock, rootsy number, and while the man himself is smitten with the lady he’s singing about his mother less so, and his friends just call her downright “evil”. A more robust number, you know when he’s going to hit the first note of his guitar solo, but it doesn’t disappoint. ‘The Man I Ought To Be’ flows naturally in, back porch southern blues, his voice channelling the late Greg Allman.
We’re on a groove now, with an acoustic at hand, and a little more gospel in the female backing harmonies, we get ‘Hear My Prayer’. Wishful thinking persists with ‘Show Me A Sign’ a return to horn-brimming funky blues rock. Both piano and organ are to the forefront on the Ray Charles-styled ‘Anyhow’, then it’s electric piano playing prettily throughout the more country-tinged ‘Waiting On The Day’ where I’m reminded a little of Kenny Rogers.
As original end point, we get an again apt title in ‘Starting Again’. Here, piano and gentle guitar evoke some early morning walk down a sandy beach, the tide incoming but gentle, seagulls far away, alone; tossing pebbles at the sea wondering if they’ll bounce back like you hope life will. Well, yeah, but Selby puts that across better in song without the skewered metaphors. It builds to an impassioned guitar-fuelled climax, and would probably have left the original album’s listeners wanting more.
Here they do, with more of the same in the slow blues shuffling ‘I Shouldn’t Care’, slower still the organ swirling ‘Love Letter To The Blues’, changing tack with fun-time horn-rimmed boogie on ‘My Baby Don’t Dig Me’ and finally ‘The Deep End’ with its Georgie Fame/Ray Charles
Rather melancholic, world weary and somewhat introspective, no creative barriers are broken here but the delivery of these songs appeal to me. These are blues for the conflicted modern man, and likewise emotive in a way that’s likely to appeal to the romantic side of the female listener too. These things just need to be heard. He’s guest on Beth Hart’s current UK tour so here’s to him extending his audience of listeners.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Connor Selby is released via Provogue Records and is available now (from here).
- Official Website
- I Can’t Let You Go
- Falling In Love Again
- If You’re Gonna Leave Me
- The Man I Ought To Be
- Hear My Prayer
- Show Me A Sign
- Waiting On The Day
- Starting Again
- I Shouldn’t Care (Bonus Track)
- Love Letter To The Blues (Bonus Track)
- My Baby Don’t Dig Me (Bonus Track)
- The Deep End (Bonus Track)