New release from Galway label Rusted Rail

ENGLISH SINGER-songwriter Duncan Sumpner, who goes under the stage name Songs of Green Pheasant, has released three albums on FatCat records, which also released albums by Sigur Ros.

However for his latest work, Soft Wounds, the Sheffield-based musician has chosen to go with the independent Galway label Rusted Rail.

The eight-track album is a gentle, slow, and mellow collection of folk-pop and indie, with the strongest tracks being opener ‘Teen Wolf’ and closer ‘Lemon Yellow’.

The sparse, stripped down, instrumentation of ‘Teen Wolf’, allows the emphasis to be placed on the beguiling vocal harmonies and the song’s hint of folk-rock psychedelica, reveals traces of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Matthew’s Southern Comfort.

‘Lemon Yellow’ finds Sumpner alone on acoustic guitar and this number is distinguished by its sophisticated vocal melody. To these ears the song has traces of Paul McCartney and Syd Barrett, without either aping those artists or being too much in thrall to them. The reference points hint at origins, but the overall effect and achievement of these abovementioned songs are Sumpner’s own.

Also noticeable, for different reasons, are the two instrumental tracks - ‘For People’ is a haunting composition, which starts with an eerie piano motif, before giving way to trumpet refrain, creating a peculiarly English and moving reverie. Less successful is ‘Sad Flowers (Viva Happiness )’, which contains a very pretty melody which is repeated ad nauseum with no real development.

Given this is an album of mellowness and mood, your reaction to it will depend on your own temperament at a given time and when you happen to play it. Laid-back, quiet songs are not going to click with you when you need something energetic. This is one for the quiet night in when you want to relax - bedsit ballads for indie ears.

The CD is housed in a hand-assembled and hand-stamped recycled card sleeve featuring artwork by Duncan Sumpner. Soft Wounds is available from Wingnut Records in Bell, Book and Candle and can also be ordered from http://rustedrail.com

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