Butler-Williams - Save It For Someone Else EP

Simon Jay Catling 01/04/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

It doesn't get talked about much, but Manchester's folk scene is currently thriving. Split between the city centre's middle class bohemia- the Northern Quarter- and the south west's suburban, erm, middle class bohemia- Chorlton- those with an acoustic instrument to hand and a tale to tell have found themselves artistically thriving amongst a supportive, like-minded environment. Jo Rose, Samson & Delilah, Eleanor Lou, Kathryn Edwards; these are just some of the names currently weaving their understated patterns through the undergrowth of Manchester's musical landscape, whilst in the likes of the For Folk's Sake and Akoustic Anarchy nights, there are threads pulling in other musicians from outside the M60 orbit.

Chris Butler and Noel Williams know this scene well. They've been turning heads in it since 2007's four track demo 'Only A Few'. The single 'Keep Your Head Down' followed in 2008, but it's been live where they've really made their mark around the city's venues and open mics. Theirs' is a simple chemistry of friendship; love songs that are poignant at best on record come alive on stage, almost as though one half's supporting the other through his trials and tribulations. Their voices meanwhile are relatively muscular for such wistful folk music- feeling and character over empty finesse. It's fair to say, in wake of Save It For Someone Else, that they've still not quite managed to capture this in the studio yet, though this is more testament to their live prowess than any mediocrity here. And they do come mighty close. The title-track of the EP is an achingly beautiful ballad that tiptoes delicately down the line between melancholic and defiant. When one joins the other to utter the refrain of "save it for someone else" in the second verse, it's like an arm round the shoulder, a bolstering of its fragile murmuring first time round. "I" becomes "we"; Butler-Williams standing steadfastly together against their heartache.

Though the other tracks on Save It For Someone Else don't reach such wonderful heights, they still stand up admirably. Opening number 'You Will Learn' surveys a scene from the perspective of two old timers as youngsters around them burn out and fade. Though probably not about the city's musical environment within which they dwell, words like "we've been running around for years, but now we sit around and watch fools disappear" are as apt as any when attempting to summarise the slow burning success of Manchester's acoustic types in the last couple of years, amidst fad after fad. 'Set In Stone', meanwhile, harnesses the duo's ability to convey more in their sound than meets the ear- despite their initial sparse textures. Brooding cello lurks in the depths, happy to hide away from plucked guitar and vocal, whilst xylophone and piano flourish away and out of sight from main melody.

Things fall away a bit with the sleepy accordion-tinged 'Tighten Your Belt', a two minute idea that seems to have left the rest behind in the recording studio, whilst closing track 'Step Back From The Crowd' fails to match the emotional strength of 'Save It For Someone Else', ironically by trying to push the heart strings. Luscious though the harmonica and squeaks of acoustic string may be, there's an obviousness about it that doesn't quite work. Still, this doesn't detract from an EP that at the very least'll make you want to go and see the pair live, and at the most will remind you of the unspoken-of thrill that a heartfelt friendship can give.

Release Date: Out Now