With a hangdog tone, distinctive stoic voice and a touch of dark humour, this jazz-inflected singer-songwriter collection is quite unique.
Time: 10 tracks / 39 mins
Even before you put this on the player, The Road Not Taken starts to create an air of resignation. It’s there in the album title and the names of songs such as “There’s no Postcard from this Town” and “Catch the Biggest Fish and Let it Go.”
If Beattie’s voice were a dog, it would probably be a bloodhound. It has a weariness that is so accentuated that you feel it is an act, a tongue-in-cheek persona.
Everything seems to be going wrong (and there is a hint of menace) on “The Same Sea” and the way he exaggerates the saying, “You only hurt the one you love” to “You only kill the one you love” only confirms the thought, especially with opening words,
“Of all the girls I’ve ever met
Not a single one remains, and yet
I’ve loved each one and pledged to all
Yet knew somehow we were bound to fall.”
Beattie has a spare, slightly jazzy, sound – a quiet electric guitar, the odd bass, violin, accordion, quiet organ or rolling cymbals – that exposes his singing style: he sounds a little as if he has a cold. Trying to find a vocal comparison, I have to go all the way back to Jake Thackray to get a similar voice – and possibly a similar humour.
But there is seriousness, warmth and some observation in these songs, from the internal reflection of “The Man that I’ve Become” to the place of family in “Welcome Home,” a blend of remembering and imagining the welcome he would get on a return home, and particularly “The Family Tree.”
The melancholy title track is about the choices we make and what would have happened, had we made a different decision.
‘Melancholy’ catches the disc’s mood and, for all the possible play-acting, the persona can be so laid back that it is very easy to drift away when listening. I’m all for chilled albums, but it sometimes feels like you have to work a little too hard to get a payback from these songs.