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George Byrne - Foreign Water

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 9 / 2006



George Byrne - Foreign Water
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

Impressively mellow debut album from Sydney-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist George Byrne


Laughing Outlaw has introduced us to many new artists over the last few years and for the most part everything on the label has been excellent. But the problem is that with a few exceptions a follow-up album by an artist who has appeared on Laughing Outlaw either takes an eternity to materialise or simply doesn’t appear at all ; Jenny Queen, 2 years and still waiting, Jack Nolan 4 years and still nothing. Of course there are a number of reasons why a follow-up album may not be forthcoming but let’s hope that the same fate doesn’t befall George Byrne. Because with ‘Foreign Water’ Byrne has produced a debut album which just leaves you wanting more of the same. And quickly. It seems unbelievable that Byrne was only a "hobby musician" until 2004, his "proper job" being that of a photographer. Unbelievable because the 13 songs here sound like the work of someone who has been in this game all his life. His previous EP ‘Iron Skies’ was released just under a year ago and is the only other recorded work by Byrne available which makes this debut album all the more surprising. How can someone release such an accomplished batch of songs when they haven’t been around for so long? There are artists who don’t reach this level even after years in a recording studio. Vocally Byrne is nothing new or exciting. there’s more than a hint of George Harrison in there at times but there are also traces of the new breed. Ryan Adams also comes to mind and that Beatle comparison also rings true of Byrne’s superb guitar playing. Byrne has a soft, warm, friendly voice that takes no time at all to get accustomed to; it’s like you’ve been listening to him for years. But it’s the whole sound, the production, the playing that makes the album stand out. For the most part Byrne takes a mellow approach. It’s hardly rock ‘n’ roll. There are no rough edges to the songs and even when he does try his hand at something a little more punky with ‘Tongue Tide’ it’s more the Jags or the Knack than the Sex Pistols. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. The opposite is true in fact. It has a nagging guitar line and won’t leave you alone once you’ve heard it, and it shows that Byrne can also take a harder stance without losing his knack for a decent melody. Byrne really shines though on songs like the heartbreaking ballad ‘Everybody Hides’. With weeping pedal steel and Byrne turning in his best vocals on lines like “so when you said we had to be apart to stay ahead, you sure it wasn’t that you had another one to warm your bed”, the song is really touching. Byrnes has the perfect voice to convey feelings of hurt, there’s a longing in his vocals that few can match. Another highpoint is when Byrne, sounding rejected and lost in ‘Light Years’, sings “it’s in my head today’ before we are greeted by the best guitar solo, not just on this record, but that we’ve heard all year. One can’t help but think that that guitar solo is going to be in our head for more than today. It is, quite simply, a stunning song. And Byrne makes it all seem so effortless, like the song came to him in a dream and he just wrote it down and presented us with this perfect pop song. This album creates a laid-back feeling for sure, but it’s never less than interesting. A song like ‘High And Wide’ twists and turns musically and Byrne's vocals show a more passionate side. It’s a side of Byrne which I hope he explores more on his second album. Byrne almost closes the album with an acoustic song, 'I Say', which has his by now trademark gorgeous melody with lyrics concerning love gone wrong (“Saw you last night, first time in months, with a brick in my stomach, weighing me down”), and it’s another highpoint on the album. If you leave the CD, however, running for a few minutes, another song appears which is also so good it raises the question of why it didn’t make the listing. This album is highly recommended. Just hope we hear more of Byrne soon.



Track Listing:-
1 Foreign Water
2 Goldmine
3 Paralysed
4 Already There
5 Everybody Hides
6 Light Years
7 Tongue Tied
8 We'll Come Around
9 High & Wide
10 On My Mind
11 Up In Ova
12 Paint It Grey



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