Released on 20th March 2020 via their own Littlemen Recordings imprint, the record sees the UK roots-rockers come together with a new-look line-up to unfurl 10 tracks of accomplished musicianship and timeless songwriting of the highest calibre.
Though long established as firm favourites on the West Country music scene, from tuning-in to the classic country-rock sound of the LITTLEMEN’s latest you could quite easily be forgiven for thinking you’ve intercepted a broadcast intended to accompany those cruising down the dusty highways of the Western USA. So authentic is their widescreen Americana, new album ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ could almost have been sealed in a time capsule in the mid-seventies, only to be unearthed these decades later as a “forgotten classic” testifying to a bygone and beautiful era.
Close your eyes and be swept away by album openers ‘Girl In The Red Blouse’ and ‘Moving On’, tracks that grow like the Mississippi towards its delta; from yawning pedal steels and laid back last-dance introductions, to cacophonic E-Street Band-inspired sax and guitar solo crescendos. Elsewhere, the sugar-coated acoustic strum of numbers like ‘Walking’ and ‘Feel The Heat’ bring to mind Faces favourites and Van Morrison’s melancholia, and provide some of the albums most beautifully pop, yet bittersweet offerings. The violin led ‘Twist of Fate’ and the joyful jig of ‘Into The Sea’ even make room to display the band’s celtic influences.
‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ sees frontman Nick Allen spill his heart on a splay of emotive issues from the global to the personal, offering the listener plenty to pore over and much to get misty-eyed about. On ‘Front Page News’, Allen stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the feminist movement and makes a firm standpoint against the objectification of women in the media; whereas elsewhere Allen reflects tenderly on first loves (‘The Girl With The Read Blouse’), lost loves (‘Moving On’), the love we share with our pets (‘Cat Song’), and even forbidden love, as on the album’s impassioned: ‘Feel The Heat’. “Feel the Heat is about two people in love who were separated by two Country splitting into two separated by the wall as in Berlin” says Nick, of the track that seems all too resonant in the current political climate.
Perhaps most striking of all are ‘Walking’, ‘The First Time’ and ‘Obstacles’, a triptych of tender country rock ballads of the highest and most-heartfelt order; each of which see Nick open-up about a calamitous motorcycle accident some years ago that has left him wheelchair bound to this very day. “‘Walking’ is about My Mother and all mothers who will give their life to heal their children, my mother’s prayer every night was for God to take her life for me to be able to walk again” he confesses. The track is directly followed by two others that see Nick earnestly reflect on the things so many of us no doubt take for granted. ‘The First Time’, a waltzing two-step number that finds Nick daydreaming of standing on his own feet again to “look into a girl’s eyes and hold her”; followed by the pillowy-hued ‘Obstacles’, tellingly about the difficulties experienced through a lifetime in a wheelchair and the sense of longing “to be able to walk again” that comes hand in hand with it. A window to the soul, together the trio make for a wistful, yet magnanimous centre-piece to the record that is sure to tremor even the most courageous of hearts.
All songs on ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ were written by Nick Allen at his home in Wiltshire in 2019. All tracks were recorded at the famous NAM Studios (that has housed KT Tunstall, The Mission, Killing Joke, Royal Blood and many more) and Omen Audio, with production by Mark Griffin and Littlemen. Littlemen would also like to thank all the previous Littlemen and those who have helped in the past, including Phil Parson at PP Media Solutions and Dave King Photography.
A loving nod to a golden age of heart’n’soul songwriting not-quite forgotten, and a joyous reminder of the hair-on-end sounds that can only flow from a band of skilled musicians recording in unison; ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ is a record out-of-time and of endless reward.
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