Album Review | Silver Branch | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5
Ian George’s debut album, KINGDOM OF MY YOUTH, is not the album he meant to make. Following the implosion of his previous touring band, he encountered Mathieu Chedid, Pop Music’s M, while drifting around Europe. An invitation by Mathieu to record at Labo M, his 17th Century Manor led to this album. Ian assembled the musicians, Vincent Polycarpe, percussion, Jacob Matheus electric guitar, Eugene Feygelson, violin, Nicholas Souchal trumpet and flugelhorn, Mathieu on bass and percussion with himself playing guitar, mandolin and piano. A special coincidence or happenstance was the catalyst, Ian provided half written songs and the collected musicians made a magical album. “Gitchie Gumee” is the corruption of the Ojibiee name for Lake Superior, the same used by Longfellow in his Hiawatha poem and Gordon Lightfoot in his “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” In Ian’s hands it is a stunning pastoral song. His acoustic guitar and accents of other instruments are the bedrock over which his glorious voice just pours like a warm honey lullaby. Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley, Scott Matthews and Sam Brookes never crooned so angelically and so perfectly. “The Wild and Untamed” strips some of the languor away. A lyric that sounds like a folk song is beautifully sung over some spiker electric guitar. Vincent and Ian’s production keeps George’s voice the star, with perfectly placed wafts and breaths of other instruments through the ethereal soundscape. The electric guitar on “Kandinsky”, an ode to Creativity, stutters and flutters like a African guitar or thumb piano, while Ian’s delightful vocal shimmers through, like sunlight in mist. Son is a perfectly formed ambient pop masterpiece like a late Japan or David Sylvian gem. The vocal, like John Martyn, is as much about mood and sound as meaning. Finally the lyric bites and Ian roars out the wish of every child over some glorious brass stabs. “Better With A Buddy” shimmers in the headphones over an infectious bass and drum rhythm, while Ian George delivers a lyric that is part surreal lonely moment and part Appalachian folk song. As always his stunning voice imparts great yearning and emotion to the words. Possibly to show it isn’t all about the voice “L’Etang La Ville” is a delicate instrumental. Plaintive mandolin and a closely miked piano dance gently at first, then more passionately with a flameco-ish guitar and a soaring violin. So the beauty comes from the players and the playing too. “The Jolly Road” is by turns an upbeat pop folk song, with a touch of Syd Barrett delicate Psychedelia about it and a crooned lullaby. After the warm euphoric bliss of the first five, Ian George throws in a few late surprises. “Shenandoah” is a blissed out, spiritual reading of the folk song. There is a sense of some of the Rishikesh era acoustic Beatles on this final track. Runs up and down the acoustic guitar have a touch of Roy Harper and his plaintive melancholic vocal occasionally recalls S&G era Paul Simon. A touch more sad than chilled it is an emotional end to a mighty mood piece of a quiet moment or late night contemplative record.