One Way Ticket
Artist: Bryn Haworth
Label: Bella Music
Time: 12 tracks / 47 mins
Five years is a long wait for a Bryn Haworth album (and now he releases two in a single month). It seems even longer since he seriously immersed himself in blues; his last release Keep the Faith only featured one acoustic blues outing, the Maggi Dawn piece “Wash Me Clean.” But in this case, the longer you wait, the better the product at the end.
There is plenty to excite the music-lover before even pressing the play button. The track listing includes “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” so much more popular since Led Zeppelin adopted it, and his backing musicians are as talented as he is. Both long-term drumming colleague Henry Spinetti and bassist Dave Bronze have played with Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, George Harrison and Procol Harum; Manfred Mann harpist Paul Jones guests and other players include keyboardist Mark Edwards (Chris Rea, Aztec Camera), Karlos Edwards (Take That, Duffy) on percussion and backing vocalist Mal Pope (Art Garfunkel).
If I had only 50 albums to take to a desert island, I’m pretty sure that Haworth’s Sunny Side of the Street would be on the list, and this release has many of the same elements. Tracks like “Hard Times,” “Inside Out,” “Best Worst Thing” and the title track stand on the borderline between riffiness and blues and these are the qualities that so endeared him to British Christians starved of quality rock in the Sunny Side… and One Way Ticket both have plenty of variety and share a light, funky touch that makes them even sprightlier. The acoustic blues roots workout “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” is always going to appeal to the same bunch, so strengthening this album’s appeal.
Whatever Haworth does has a sensitive touch, whether his soft-edged vocals or the delicate touches of mandolin and slide. Ever since his early live staple “Anywhere You Want to Be”, his instrumental tracks have been ones to watch out for. There are two here: “Up on the Downs”, a gentle acoustic shuffle with slide-led lead lines and an instantly ‘gettable’ melody; and a complete re-working of “Once in Royal David’s City.” It comes from such an ambient place that it takes a good 90 seconds to start to recognise the melody. If he brought out a complete album of tracks like this, I’d be well up the queue to get hold of it.
Not everything quite fits together. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day” has a feel here that may be a bit too dated (although the “ev-er-y-day” refrain uses vocals to do what brass sections do and is very catchy). Every time the light jazz of “Let’s Go Out Tonight” starts, it reminds me of Eric Idle singing “Look on the Bright Side of Life” and its “shoo-be-doo”s will similarly appeal to more of a pre-rock audience. “God is my Strength” is about the only track that doesn’t really spark. Its reggae stylings are somehow unconvincing, although the playing is again superb.
Whether on the rockier, instrumental or older-styled material, Haworth’s playing is as instinctive as it is accomplished. He knows when to break into or out of riffs, and his fills bring the right sound in at the right point to create maximum effect. It all comes together on a track like “Inside Out”. Its groove is like the backbone of Redbone’s “Witch Queen of New Orleans” and it builds to a celebratory chorus, “I’ve been changed from the inside out.”
Haworth came to faith after he had a record contract with Island Records, so he has proven skills outside of worship music. He regularly integrates his faith with other subjects in his songs, so making his music accessible to all and drawing others towards his faith, rather than excluding them with Christian jargon.
Combining the bluesiness of Glenn Kaiser, the strings finesse of Phil Keaggy and the accessible faith of both, this re-invents blues to his own style. If you play this for long, it might get you running out to get a bottleneck for your air guitar.
(Seven of these – and seven of the best – are also found on the even better compilation Inside Out)