Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Album Review: Orphan Keys by John Allen

 I did something I've never done before last week. I asked an artist for an advance copy of their new album to review. I've never like to do that because I always think why on earth should someone let me have something they've worked extremely hard on for nothing? But this was a release I'm extremely excited for so figured I'd try my luck and ask. John Allen you are a gentleman. I was lucky enough to be put onto his last album Sophomore earlier this year and fell in love with his punk tinged folk music and has been played constantly since I got it. Soon he releases a new album named Orphan Keys. Here is my review of it.

The first song on Orphan Keys is a song named America and is a Simon and Garfunkel cover.  This, like all the songs is a piano driven song accompanied by Allen's trademark raspy vocals. The track is a slow moving song but the tune and melody really catch your attention. The next song, Criminals and Baseball Stars is an original John Allen track. This track is about nights spent in American Speakeasy and all the different reasons that people visit them. It's quite an eye opening song when you really listen to the lyrics, it makes you realise that pubs/bars/speakeasy's are a place where  people from all walks of life will go. Next up is a song named Thou Shalt Be Saved and is a six minute long epic and is about music saving lives and giving you a purpose. I really loved the verse towards the end of the song that reads "So If Life Treats You Unfairly And You Find It Hard To Be Brave, Put On Your Headphones, Turn On Your Favourite Record, And Thou Shalt Be Saved."

The next song is another cover song, a Tom Waits song named Ruby's Arms. Not be familiar with the original song at all it's hard to compare the two but I really liked John Allen's version. His voice is on top form throughout. Up next is a song named Breaking Waves. The opening of this song s very subdued, with a simple piano tune and a restrained vocal performance from Allen. This is another song that relies on John's voice to grab the listeners attention and it really does. He has one of my favourite voices, I find it soothing and quite calming. I like the way that his voices serves as the melody maker during the next song with the piano providing a backing beat. Named Close Your Eyes, it's a song where Allen's voice is allowed to build up to a big passionate section alongside the more subdued parts. The song is full of emotion has John talks about loving life travelling around on tour but also longing for home. Orphan Keys is finished with the song Home. Still using just his piano this song has a completely different feel to the rest of the EP, it's much much rawer. It's a reworking of a song from previous album Sophomore. The sound of the song makes me imagine seeing  John Allen in an old, smoky, western saloon.

I have a very strong suspician that Orphan Keys will be the only piano led album I review this year. I don't feel there would be much point doing another one though as none will top this. An excellent release from one of the best in the game. I can't wait to experience a John Allen live show, I imagine that's a magical experience.

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Now listening to The Dregs by The Tosspints