Dan Clews 

While Middle England Mows Its Lawn

(Vista Music)

Is that a smidgeon of contempt in that album title? Why so?..though I do recall an interesting indie outfit called The Strange Death Of Liberal England… some background info, then. The late Sir George Martin described our man as “Too great a talent to ignore” and dear Bob Harris calls Clews’ music “Landscape Folk”. He comes from a farming family in Kent in the South of England. Dan says that the songs herein re from true experiences and genuine feelings. Your reviewer works in the polar opposite field on composition, adopting other personas….

Keyboard man Tim Minchin once had Dan join him to play at a benefit show. Assuming that all these worthies cannot be wrong, we shall press ‘Play’….

Opening track I Am Luck creaks in on a happy-go-lucky groove, all bumping drums, rolling piano, sighing Hammond, earnest vocals with harmonies – all itched midway between Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance and early Leo Sayer. Radio-friendly or what ? Producer/engineer seems to be going for an organic sound and mix.

House That Is My Heart has a catchy light-footed melody. Clews has a troubadour voice, very slightly nasal, in the same way that McCartney can be. It is tuneful without being gripping, steady in its strength with no straining. Gerry Rafferty didn’t fare badly with similar pipes but overall Dan’s singing and phrasing most evokes the mighty songsmith Gilbert O’Sullivan. Human is a tuneful plea in song form, very listenable indeed. Reset has interesting guitar tomes and unhurried singing, very reflective and the nearest we get here to folk.

Stare Time Down is a tad livelier, with drumming that conjures up the dreaded Bisto Boy sound of Mumford. Great words, which redeem the cut to a degree. Almost! Mountain has a gentle guitar chord tumble and a superb vocal, probably the best on the set. Strings would have sounded fine on this one. Addictive chorus, too.

I Will Love You More is restrained, he sounds on the back foot in a relationship, here. Alpha Crucis is a little chunkier and all the better for it, he certainly has a way with words. Would this not have fitted on to Tea For TillerMan?

Beyond Tomorrow is a touch mysterious in its intro but the song mood doesn’t carry this through, a pity; While Middle England Mows Its Lawn finds Dan with guitar on his own. It’s an observation about business, conflict, love, choices, not really arriving anywhere in particular.

A great release for those who like Stealers Wheel and Crowded House or even Cat Stevens, without the vocal harshness that he over-used. The songs will endure, I think. If I was carping I would question the lack of instrumental solos which would have enhanced the set and given more dynamic peaks. Presumably this can be addressed in performance, I would hope so.

Pete Sargeant

(Thanks Chris)


Dan Clews new album 'While Middle England Mows Its Lawn' is released on Friday 31st March 2017 on Vista Music.

For more information visit Dan Clews official website here: http://bit.ly/2l3zN28

Dan Clews