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Davey Woodward and the WInter Orphans - Love and Optimism

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 14 / 2 / 2021

Davey Woodward and the WInter Orphans - Love and Optimism
Label: A Turntable Friend
Format: CD


Veteran Bristol mmsician Davey Woodward releases the flawed masterpiece he has always hinted at with the second album with his band the Winter Orphans

I have had a copy of this album for about three months now and there is seldom a day that goes by that I don’t listen to at least a couple of tracks from it, often when out walking the dog at first light or dusk, which kind of fits really. I have deliberately delayed reviewing it for so long because I want to be of certain mind and not clouded by the euphoria of hearing something new when I deliver the verdict that this album is the flawed masterpiece that Davey Woodward has been so close to producing for his near four decades of music making. Yes, I make no secret of the fact that Woodward’s music in all its various band incarnations has formed much of the soundtrack to the last thirty odd years as I have navigated my way from shy teenager to the brink of turning 50, and as such cannot help but be a tad bias. Reflective, melancholic, Autumnal - all fitting adjectives that could describe this album, but like watery winter sun there is also some brightness, some thin strands of hope. There is real warmth and feeling there too, probably as a direct result of effectively recording the tracks “live” in the studio. The road testing of most of the songs during gigs over the last couple of years has also helped to tighten the band whilst still allowing subtle fluidity throughout. So to the songs themselves; Woodward’s ear for sublime melody and sense for wonderful lyricism are as razor sharp as they have ever been. As always, a blurred collection of fact and fiction, half remembered memories and half dreamt dreams. Where the lines are he knows, but isn’t saying. The one constant being the Bristol backdrop that gives his songs that extra something. Both sides of the vinyl kick off with punk pop numbers ('Bad Day' and 'Brothers & Sisters') that would be the envy of most, but in truth they are slightly misleading as to the mellower tracks thereafter. I am sure this is deliberate, with Woodward being somewhat mischievous in the same way that back in his Brilliant Corners days he released the bubble-gum pop of 'Brian Rix' on a 7” single with the rasping whirlwind of buzz-saw guitars that is the excellent 'Trudy Is A Squeel' on the b-side. 'Hard' is the first of so many timeless tracks that bless this album. Reflecting on a failing relationship with the touching lyric “Icy path think we lost our way/You can’t remember the day or the date,” it really is a thing of great beauty. Possibly about immigration or maybe minorities, 'Aliens' is a sparkling tune enhanced by Harry Furnace’s fine cornet work entwined with Woodward’s harmonica and a wonderfully subtle but simple guitar hook. Another stellar lyric – “Last night’s kisses are this morning’s misgivings/It’s the only way I know I’m living” - graces 'Warms Hands'. Is it the confession of a serial philanderer or the last throws of a dead relationship? Either way, it makes for a magnificent song, before the uplifting 'Northern Slopes', capturing the essence of a walk in the fresh air, brings side 1 to a close. Side 2 is more than the equal of side 1 and in 'Occupy This Space' it boasts not only my favourite song on the album, but also my favourite song of the whole year. It’s simple and sad and seems to sum up the times so perfectly even though it pre-dates covid by some distance. 'The Mall' with a lyric highlighting the anger of loss is another Woodward special, as is the staggering title track. Almost hidden away towards the end is 'While Soldier’s Sleep', a song so well crafted it would have been the highlight of most other albums, before the sea shanty of 'Clara’s Ghost', written ahead of Black Lives Matter, brings the album to a close. Of course, the Brilliant Corners remain a constant link to my youth and simpler times, their 'Fruit Machine' EP forever the perfect six track slab of vinyl and wow those re-union gigs across Europe in 2013/14 left not only a dent in my savings account but vivid, priceless memories etched, undimmed in my brain. Indeed, the Experimental Pop band, strangely held in less regard than The Brilliant Corners, remind of drunken nights in Berlin and sober, but happy, nights/early mornings returning north up the M5 and M6 from their Bristol gigs. 'Tinsel Stars' and 'Tarmac and Flames' worthy albums to rival anything before. More recently, Karen (Davey’s other, rockier, band) have recorded some stunning songs and played some blinding gigs and their yet to be released album could just be really something, but for now 'Love and Optimism' captures a time so perfectly, hits a nerve so cleanly and in places swells a heart so warmly that if this is the last offering from Mr Woodward no one could leave unsatisfied.

Track Listing:-
1 Bad Day
2 Hard
3 Aliens
4 Warm Hands
5 Northern Slopes
6 Brothers And Sisters
7 Occupy This Space
8 The Mall
9 Love And Optimism
10 While Soldiers Sleep
11 Clara's Ghost

Band Links:-

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