Alan West - All Things for a Reason
If you’re a music fan who loves true, honest, down-to-earth country music songs, based on hard life lessons and affairs of the heart, then Alan West is your man. With the honest and real vocal delivery that this Devon man is renowned for, this collection of songs is a true blend of old-school sensibility and the sound of today’s contemporary standards. Most of the songs are penned by the vastly underrated Steve Black, with Jim Almand joining in as co-writer on the wry He Ain’t Foolin’ Me and Alan West being co-writer on the title song and Fine Line. There are two outside songs; the first is Hugh Moffatt’s beautifully romantic The Way Love Is, a song I’d not heard for years. Alan West has too good a voice and taste to get over-sentimental and with an acoustic guitar opening this affecting song develops into a minor understated gem with a heartfelt vocal and on-the-mark harmonies. The second is John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads, an excellent song I first heard way back in 1972, but Alan West and his skilled studio musicians turn the song around completely. Instead of the familiar wistful sing-along version we all know, here we’re treated to a dark, haunting rendition as Alan sings wearily about returning home, with heavy trepidation in the background provided by forlorn fiddle and the doleful mandolin. I just love it when an artist can take a well-known song and create a totally different feel and meaning from the original. In my book that is the mark of true artistry.
Steve Black’s songs are full of colourful characters and frank commentary. His melodic and lyrical constructions travel various, always unique paths as they unravel. Songs as oddly wonderful as Maria Delores, a compelling character study of a mysterious beautiful woman or the epic Numbers, that links together the frailty of life and death across generations and world-wide historical events all dressed up in a superlative musical arrangement that enhances Alan’s well-executed vocal and the meticulously crafted lyrics. Listen carefully to the lyrics of Hillbilly Woodbines, it’s a great example of really good songwriting. Alan’s singing sounds even stronger as he leans closer to what we used to know as mainstream country and colours and builds yet another of Steve Black’s compelling, lyrically proficient story-songs.
Throughout this exceptional album Alan West and his musicians hold that artistic high ground without becoming inaccessible. Steve Black’s songs will remind you of holograms: words and melodies evoke vivid visual images. It all adds up to one of the best albums I’ve had the pleasure of hearing this year and I guess will remain near the top of my essential playlist for a long time to come.