"Balladesque" is the solo debut CD from Canadian Alun Piggins, who used to front the underrated Morganfields, and it's a cracker. Piggins wrote all 12 of the songs, played most of the instruments, and recorded the vast majority of it in his basement--hence the name of the label! It is a highly polished effort, however, that knocks a lot of the output of the bigger labels into a cocked hat.
The album opens with a Dylanesque harp wail that announces "Heading Out West." It is not long before the guitars come crashing in, however, and the song sets the tone for the rest of the album. You can easily imagine someone like the Byrds having evolved to play the sort of music that Piggins peddles. It has the jangly guitars, harmony vocals, the
works. This is the first of a number of tunes that deal with the need to keep moving on; Piggins is a keen observer (and recorder) of life and its many problems.
At times Piggins sounds uncannily like REM in their quieter moments (especially on the excellent "Fire In The Window"), which is no bad thing in this reviewer's opinion. The overall style, however, is a marriage of folk/roots with pop, resulting in several classic tunes which have melodies and hook lines that will soon have you tapping your feet and singing along with the choruses. There are no bad tunes here, and the aforementioned "Fire In The Window," "Catatonic," "Abandoning," and the almost Beatlesque "Out In The Woods" are current personal favorites.
Piggins has been around the music business for a decade or so, and despite seeming rather disenchanted by it all, continues to keep plugging away with a great sense of (justifiable) self-belief. We should all be glad of this, because "Balladesque" is a terrific album, which merits mention in the same breath as works from Coldplay, REM and Travis. It is basically great pop music, with strong influences from folk/roots. "Balladesque" may not be in your local stores, but it is well worth tracking down, because it is one of the best albums to appear in 2000, without any shadow of a doubt. It
should be available from on-line distributors Maple Music, Tunevault.com and Streetsonline (audiostreet.co.uk). Failing that, try Piggins' own site (www.alunpiggins.com). Somebody should sign this boy up, because "Balladesque" is an album that deserves to be heard by everyone.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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