It’s easy to take Francis Rossi for granted. He and his band, Status Quo have been around for so long, they’re part of the UK’s Rock’n’Roll furniture. They’ve survived and indeed prospered in recent years, not just because they write a good tune and have a great back catalogue, but because they’re willing to take a chance or two.
2014’s Aquostic (Stripped Bare) was the band’s first full blown tilt at “reimagining” older material in an acoustic set up. It was such a success, commercially and critically, that it led to this, an album of new material, produced and arranged in much the same manner.
Rossi works here with talented vocalist (and violinist) Hannah Rickard, as he did on Aquostic. She’s probably best known for her band Hannah Rickard and The Relatives, and while we might think of her as a rock singer, her intonation and articulation makes her a formidable country/folk/pop talent too. Her duets with Rossi bring a beguiling sensitivity and emotion to these remarkably lean and confident folk/country styled recordings. The material – largely introspective – may lack originality, but thats not the point here, the songs have huge heart and soul, and quite deliberately, a distinctly familiar air.
‘I’ve Tried Letting It Go’ and ‘Sinking In Blue’ are lit up by a kind of calm intensity. Rossi and Rickard’s sweet harmonising perfectly match the tracks’ descending chord shifts, with cool Hammond underpinning adding a little extra weight.
You can’t help but be impressed with the imaginative cross wiring going on the in the songwriting . . . ‘But I Just Said Goodbye’s distinctive melody and tone owes a lot to country classic “The Wild Side Of Life” – a song covered by Quo in the seventies. And many tracks, most especially ‘I’ll Take You Home’ and ‘Hearbreaker’ swell with quiet yearning and melodic warmth.
The title track, which has trailed the album for a while now, is a Rossi/Bob Young co-write, and has a bit more steel in its spine… you can hear them referencing Jeff Lynne in the backing vocals and Cheap Trick in the booming, powerpop guitar fills. But it’s the only track that goes off the grid, and despite its decision to trade catchy hooks and foot tapping choruses for accessibility and airplay, it still comes second to the hooky, wordy ‘Oughta Know By Now’, the most Quo of any of these tracks.
The other musical strand in play here is Southern soul, and on the hymn like ‘Waiting For Jesus’ and the churchy, gospel tinged ‘Good Times Bad Times’, it’s hard to shake the notion that it’s really Rickard’s show. It strikes you that she, perhaps moreso than Rossi, has an intuitive feel for these disparate musical idioms, and that she could take a number of directions from here. Time will tell.
Meantime We Talk Too Much‘s enormously enjoyable collection of catchy hooks and irresistibly singalong choruses, supported by a rich weave of acoustic instrumentation, will do just fine.
- I’ll Take You Home
- I’ve Tried Letting It Go
- Oughta Know By Now
- But I Just Said Goodbye
- Waiting For Jesus
- I’m Only Happy
- I Talk Too Much
- Good Times Bad Times
- Sinking in Blue
- Maybe Tomorrow