Album Reviews

Richard Palmer-James


Artist:     Richard Palmer-James

Album:     Takeaway

Label:     Cherry Red

Release Date:     10/14/2016


Richard Palmer-James shows a clear love for the American heartland, certainly more than you might expect from an Englishman living in Germany. If you know the name at all, it’s probably as the lyricist for an early-’70s prog-rock group or two. His solo debut Takeaway, though, is worlds away from those outfits (give or take an occasional bar in 6/8). This is foremost a songwriter’s album—the product of someone who’s not out to prove anything, just a guy with a guitar and some stories to share.

“Aerodrome” comes out misleadingly aimless and rhymeless, but the album finds its feet soon enough and it’s self-assured from there out. Palmer-James doesn’t do crazy virtuosity or have the powerful voice of a frontman; rather, his simple delivery puts the songs at the center of attention—all the better to feature the craft behind the rhythms and choruses. Maybe his unassuming vocals can’t be convincingly mean on lines like “one fine day we’ll meet again in Hell,” but when going more low-key, he’s eloquent at spinning wistful yarns and age-earned thoughts (“the help I need ain’t the same as the help I’m owed”).

These tunes are always picturesque, from the nostalgic sunniness of a “Halfremembered Summer” to the prairie-tavern hook of “Dance for Me” or the deep-South twang he shows in “Guano Blues” and “Highway Code.” Palmer-James may sometimes sound like he’s from Arkansas more than Bournemouth, but no matter the style, the heart underneath Takeaway is genuine and there’s a lot of real life behind every line.

—Geno Thackara

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