Album review: Justin Currie: Lower Reaches

In addition to those evergreen topics of love and death, Justin Currie’s third solo album also tackles the subject of music itself.

Singer songwriter Justin Currie in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
Singer songwriter Justin Currie in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
Singer songwriter Justin Currie in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry

Justin Currie: Lower Reaches

Endless Shipwreck, £13.99 * * *

Every Song’s the Same is not a gripe about daytime radio or the Two Door Cinema Club catalogue but a country-tinged celebration of the common musical elements that speak to our humanity or at least tickle our imagination. There is even a bit of a songwriting seminar thrown in for free: “let me teach you how to write a song, the first line must be brief but strong”. It’s sound advice, and Currie generally heeds his own counsel.

For the Del Amitri frontman, the optimum writing conditions involve being bored and alone or, in the words of a previous Currie composition, A Man With Nothing to Do. Several of these new songs came out of a self-imposed songwriting retreat on Skye, and were later arranged and recorded with producer Mike McCarthy in Austin, Texas, using a fair few of that musical city’s finest players and a vintage beatbox which is deployed enthusiastically but intrusively on several tracks, like a ticking clock which you can’t block out.

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Lower Reaches is a pithy collection, just nudging over the half hour mark, but it covers a satisfying amount of ground, effortlessly dispensing a couple of well crafted commercial pop rockers, Bend To My Will and I Hate Myself For Loving You, which occupy familiar Del Amitri territory.

Accomplished and accessible though these are, Currie has a talent for reeling the listener in with languidly paced numbers such as the classy piano ballad Into a Pearl, the bluesy On a Roll, radiating that sultry desert feel which also infuses KT Tunstall’s latest album, and the wistful but witty Half of Me, which captures mid-life crisis in a jar.

Currie is self-deprecating to a fault (the album title is a reference to the lower reaches of the charts) but he can make a mean observation – literally, in the case of all-out country shuffle On My Conscience, which provides a breezy backing for some very baleful sentiments: “I’m going to ride you to hell and back again, so I’ll have it on my conscience until the end of time”. Elsewhere, Falsetto paints a tragicomic, melodramatic study of a funeral service with some well chosen brushstrokes and an ELO-influenced middle eight.