Fiery Blue - Fiery Blue
Owain Paciuszko 18/10/2010
This LP is a long distance collaboration between a songwriter based in San Diego (Paul Marstellar), an Austin, Texas producer/musician (Gabe Rhodes) and a New York City singer (Simone Stevens).
Unfortunately the opening track Hide Away makes one think the distance was keeping them apart for a reason, it's a bland country-pop number that has some nice string arrangments but very little else to recommend it. Fortunately however things pick up on Feels Like Falling where Stevens vocal is less of a Dolly Parton grimace and more a richer, sultrier Emmylou Harris-esque sound. Elsewhere Rhodes' - who coincidentally has worked with Harris - knack for smart instrumentation brings up some tenderly played piano on In The Wind, and across the record as a whole he brings a deft touch to otherwise saccahrine and standard Americana.
There are hints of the work between Aimee Mann and producer Jon Brion on the buoyant and moody swagger of Neon Age, with Tin Machine's Hunt Sales drums and bass particularly of note on this track. But for all the good moments peppered across the record, it weighs heavy at 18 tracks and it can sometimes be a hard slog through middle-of-the-road country pop to get to the occasional treat. For example, the canyon of bland that is The Long Light via the embarassing karaoke-beat of Fire Show through to the insipid likes of Where They Are, there are a number of tracks that seem superfluous to the record's bulk and wind up distracting from the songs that actually really work.
Even the somewhat twinkly likes of Magic at least have a certain carefree wistfulness that off-sets the somewhat ropey lyrics and glittering sound effects, and make at least a passing impression which is more than can be said for this record's most disposable tunes. It's difficult to enjoy an entire album as a whole when one second you're willing to write off the whole endeavour as a waste of time and talent, then chastising yourself for being so harsh on them as they do have considerable skill and an ear for a good tune, only to feel your first impressions were far too generous once the next track rolls along.
Things pick up after a particularly dry spell on Big Moment which kicks off with slinky percussion forming a nice spell-binding contrast to Stevens polished vocals. Redundant ballad Diamonds threatens to undo the good work in pulling the record's closing tracks together, and something like Funland pitches absolutely awful lyrics against a passable and chirpy musical background. Things end on a damp note with the half-formed and sombre Far and Near, a piano led refrain that burbles out of existence leaving the record on an underwhelming final note.
At times across this bloated album there are moments where these collaborators manage to colaesce their respective talents into something engaging and enjoyable, but all too often the tunes are limp and unmemorable souring even the taste of the record's better songs.