Monday 19 August 2013


CD Review

Reaching for a State of Mind

This may only be Dan Whitehouse’s second full album but when you listen to the tracks you very quickly get a sense there is much more maturity and experience of creating music and songs than just two CDs can indicate.

Dan Whitehouse's new album
Dan, originally from Wolverhampton but now works mostly from Birmingham, both in the West Midlands, has done his time, mainly through the folk circuit, although whether this will remain so only time will tell.
There is not a great deal on this album which points to the genre, so if nothing else it will be interesting to see which avenue he takes in the future.
The opening track, A Dream That’s Floating Out To Sea, is precise in its lyrics and hypnotic in the throbbing beat which holds up the guitar playing. It’s one of those tracks that within seconds you are mimicking the rhythm either tapping it with your fingers on the table or on the floor with your feet.
It’s also the introduction to Dan’s distinctive voice which is often quite high pitched but has this silky, breathiness to it that makes it easy on the ear. RSM is very much a fuller sound compared to the simpler acoustic and solo feel of his first album as Dan states: “The first album was a solo effort, recorded in parts and in my flat, with acoustic instruments. For this one a band was formed in the studio with Chip Bailey on percussion and Simon Smith on bass. It was a full band set up from the beginning.”
The second track on the album, A Light, is a much more commercial sounding song and wouldn’t be out of place in the charts. It has shades of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and yet at the same time somehow seems to pay homage to the American West Coast sound.
The fact that Dan’s influences are eclectic is not surprising when you consider he grew up in a household where his father Pete was a pioneer of local radio and has been involved with the medium for more than 30 years in the hands on - presenting and producing; academic - in teaching and training and administrative - in setting up licences and dealing with legislation.
Dan is the first to admit his father’s record collection has been instrumental in building his respect for song writing and fuelling his passion for music.
Come to Me which is the third track on the album has a Simple Minds feel to it and even recalls memories of early U2 stuff. It includes evocative lyrics such as “I want your scar on my heart”.
This album comes with an impressive pedigree and has been produced with guitarist PJ Wright who has been involved with Fairport Convention and Helen Lancaster of the extremely talented The Old Dance School.
The River is a really stylish track and perhaps more than any other showcases Dan’s vinyl smooth voice. He shows how he can switch his range from the top end to the bottom without any sense of unease or strain.
The following track The Climb seems almost like The River part two, they could have easily been linked by a simple instrumental bridge but this track does focus a little more on Dan’s skilled guitar playing.

Dan Whitehouse who will be launching his new album
 in Birmingham on September 29
Arguably one of the best tracks on the album is Chasing Paper, a brooding and emotive track which alternates from Dan, sounding not unlike Bono, throwing his voice over the top of an ethnic-style under beat to it being gradually replaced by the electric guitar building repeatedly in the background.
Dan says RSM is an ambitious step forward both musically and lyrically. It’s certainly that, it is well done and he has achieved that clever move, through his lyrics, of turning the mundane into something artistic and enjoyable without losing the connection with everyday life.
Something in the Way is a haunting and ethereal track and uses effects very well from Dan’s voice sounding like it’s coming over a ropey radio station to what sounds like reversed backing tracks. It’s clever in that the lyrics are very sparse and repetitive, yet they work to create a song that is well worth listening to.
Come Back is perhaps the most MOR song on the album and really doesn’t do a great deal of justice to how talented Dan is. You almost get a feeling that it’s there for padding which is questionable when you consider that the 11 tracks were pared down from 35. But what it does tell you is that you know there is another album in the offing at some stage.
Why Don’t We Dance? Is a gorgeous track and is perhaps Dan at his best, at least on this album. His distinctive sound is accented wonderfully by the lone notes of the piano. Don’t be surprised if in the future this track turns up on an advert for something like John Lewis.
One of the tracks closing down the album is another commercial sounding song, Maybe I Too Was Born to Run, which has a country feel to it and which incorporates both a reggae strand and a pseudo-spiritual choral element.
RSM finishes as strongly as it opens with Home, which will strike a chord with Midlanders and it’s always nice for a singer to pay homage to the area which both inspired and influenced them and closes the album nicely.
Reaching for a State of Mind is released on October 7 on Tiger Dan Records and will be officially launched by Dan Whitehouse and full band on September 29 at The Crescent Theatre, Sheepcote Street, Birmingham. B16 8AE

Doors open 6pm tickets are £8 in advance or £11 on the night. Call 0121 643 5858.

The Mike Harding Folk Show

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