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Danny and the Champions of the World - Streets of Our Time

  by Anthony Middleton

published: 13 / 5 / 2010

Danny and the Champions of the World - Streets of Our Time
Label: Loose Music
Format: CD


Dreamily authentic latest album from sprawling London-based Americana act, Danny and the Champions of the World

After seeing Danny Wilson supporting the Duke and the King at the Union Chapel in London last month, I was intrigued to hear 'Streets of our Time'. The ninth album that Wilson has recorded, including those with his brother Julian as Grand Drive, it is a laidback, assured and authentic affair. Danny and the Champions of the World are a loose connection of musicians - a sort of Americana All-stars – centred on Wilson, whose versatile voice is soulful at times, more caustic at others, then full of bathos. This is very much Americana at its British best, full of lilting pedal steel, violins, finger picking guitar and banjo. From the outset with 'Henry the Van' (a tour bus apparently) the album is tinged with regret, hope and melancholy; at first glance it has the simplicity of a campfire sing-along, yet the intricacy and complexity of the arrangements become apparent to you as the song progresses. A notable, self-trumpeted, influence on Danny is Bruce Springsteen, probably 90s vintage, perhaps early 70s, anything but the power rock of the eighties. In things as simple as the intonation of the singing to the structure of the songs Springsteen is a constant reference point. They share a wistfulness and root for the common man’s dreams, underlined by lines like “we wanted to see life in wide screen” in 'Restless Feet'. But pastiche is avoided by the adherence to folk sensibilities, where Springsteen has generally trod a funkier path. There are more contemporary fellow travellers with Danny Wilson, many a good deal more high profile. 'Parakeets', from its images of the natural world ,to a melody that sounds as if it may be a centuries-old folk song, is a song the Fleet Foxes would be proud of. Mumford and Sons, already beyond the alt-country hinterland inhabited by Danny and many other talented musicians, are not doing anything much different or better. The natural themes abound with song titles such as 'Wandle Swan', 'Bluebird' and 'Follow the River'. The title song in particular stands out; personal enough to be engaging, universal enough to be relevant, while the song initially plods along it builds to a splendid crescendo. If there is a criticism to be made, it is that there are not enough gear changes, though the overall quality is more than high enough to overcome this. At times the banjo, mandolin and guitar playing is mesmerising; there really seems to a level of ability among British folk inspired musicians that was unthinkable a generation ago. 'Streets of Our Time' is an unusual marritage of folk stylings and Springsteen’s themes, though of course the Boss’ own foray into the genre with the Pete Seeger sessions had a similar feel it. As with Springsteen, it will turn out that Danny and the Champions of the World are not, in fact, the future of Roll and Roll but an, admittedly lesser, voice of dreamy authenticity.

Track Listing:-
1 Henry the Van
2 Restless Feet
3 Lose These Rags
4 Follow the River
5 Wandle Swan
6 Streets of Our Tme
7 Your People
8 Bluebird
9 Parakeets

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