Behind The Wheel

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Behind The Wheel

Now five albums to the good, Sussex husband and wife combo Rob and Sarah Skinner have reached a career zenith with Behind The Wheel. Its nine songs exude confidence in writing, performance and production, and its success will be just reward for the blood, sweat and beers that both, and their supporters, have invested.

Over the course of releases since their raw, rootsy debut Grass Roots, the Skinners have steadily developed their own unique sound, often incurring the disapproval of petty, insecure purists whose view seems to be that songs stripped to acoustic guitar and soprano saxophone can’t work, and are certainly not ‘blues’, whatever that is.

An aura of justifiable self-belief permeates the album’s love songs, gentle rants and wistful reminiscing. Whilst the title track recalls the freewheeling rootsy songs of their back catalogue, ‘Home Sweet Home’ melodically nods Beatle-wards and ‘Bad Apple’ pounds with restrained rock energy  and precise brass fills. ‘Thoughts Of The Past’ and ‘The Other Half’ were both road-tested on the Skinners’ early winter tour, and their delightful backstories will be known to all who attended a show. The former tastefully sympathises with faded beauty, whilst the husband-wife intimacy of the latter is genuine without being cloying, and such is the dramatic effect that even listening feels like guilty intrusion.

If there has to be a highlight nominated, it is the 7’07” marathon ‘Daybreak’, where time signatures change to accommodate melodic structure and Sarah’s lung-shredding saxophone coda, not a demi-semi-quaver too long, is destined to become a live showstopper.

Guitar, sax and voices are enhanced only periodically by rudimentary bass and drums, and adding to the feeling of maturity of Behind The Wheel the spacious production is a lesson in economy, dynamics and uncluttered sophistication.

Date added: Feb 17, 2016

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