Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 4 December 2015
‘Fables & Ideals’ is the brainchild of Brit Garry Hutchinson. It was conceived in the Badlands of Arizona and completed back in dear old Blighty, in the Lake District to be precise. Wide open plains and spaces run through its musical DNA. It’s spare, basic, unadorned – the instrumentation is minimal, simple and largely acoustic and stylistically it straddles both countries.
Lead track ‘Beaten Spirits & Paper Crowns’ is alt-folk. Acoustic guitars strum while electric guitar wafts sensually in the background. Hutchinson sounds as weather beaten as the landscapes that inspire him – he’s whispery, husky and smooth – like an old prospector telling you a bedtime story. There is a hint of a Bon Iver, ‘old dude in a log cabin’ vibe while Enise Hutchinson’s background vocals add colour, recalling the wonderful Sandy Denny.
Enise takes lead vocal on the countrified ‘Passage Of Time’, switching things around a bit. Things continue on their low key way until we hit the rockier ‘Anthem’ – guitars are plugged in and hats are tipped in Messrs’ Petty and Springsteen’s direction, and although it has a nice, scrappy solo it doesn’t quite convince. Yes, it has a bit more life to it but it meanders, it doesn’t have a hook.
‘Broken Lullaby’ is a highpoint – the mix of electric and acoustic is spot on, it’s rural and woozy and the Hutchinson’s harmonies again recall Bruce, but this time with his wife, Patti. It’s intimate yet expansive, it feels closer to what they seem to be aiming at.
It continues on its unassuming way – a wheeze of Dylan harmonica here, an Eddie Vedder style ukulele ballad there – Americana and roots music crossing the pond and cross-pollinating with bucolic English folk. It’s brief (8 songs), unobtrusive and chilled, perfect with a glass of wine and a comfy armchair.
But despite its good points it doesn’t quite work. It’s a little too reserved, it needs to demand attention a bit more. It often feels like a clutch of demo’s – songs end abruptly without any planning, almost like half-finished sketches. The instrumentation is almost too basic. It reminds me, in terms of mood and feel, of this year’s Country Music Award winner, Chris Stapleton. Although, unfortunately, without the tunes, star quality or outlaw cache. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not at all bad, it just lacks a little spark. It’s good, but there are many others who do this better.
Beaten Spirits & Paper Crowns
Passage Of Time
Between Light & Decay