James McArthur and the Head Gardeners – Burnt Moth

Album Review | Moorland Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

James McArthur graduated from playing drums with Paul Weller to striking out as an acoustic troubadour. Burnt Moth is his second album. There is a wonderfully intimate lo-fi feel throughout. The arrangements and McArthur’s vocal delivery recall early 70s Heron or Magna Carta. A more contemporary reference point with be 4AD’s Mojave 3 or Neil Halsted’s solo work. “14 Seconds”, the album opener pairs his finger picked guitar with a mournful pedal steel and some lovely strings. “What the Day Holds” continues the intimate acoustic vibe, with a great passage where the layered guitars and strings spark off each other. “No Door” has some beautiful guitar picking against a great country fiddle line, it could all be lifted off an early 70s Bert Jansch album. “To Do” is a duet with Samantha Whates around a delicate piano part. Aching delicate it sounds like the theme tune for a Scandinavian Detective Drama, you can image it playing as the camera drone swoops across unending grasses under a brooding sky, panning past while our flawed main character stares moodily into the middle distance. “Bluest Stone” features striking guitar and mandolin parts that nod ever so slightly to Led Zeppelin and their “Battle of Evermore”. But with James McArthur the effect is bucolic rather than histrionic, as the music draws you in and surrounds you. “Twice a Day” and “Evens on Green” continue the layered guitars and at times feel like Genesis on Trick of the Tale with its vocal refrains on “Entangled” or David Gilmour’s country lap steel on Meddle Era Pink Floyd track “Fearless”. An album of warm intimate songs. A delicate voice wrapped in layers of guitar, pedal steel and sympathetic strings creates an atmosphere that is inviting and enveloping.