The Happy Soul – The Modern Day Composer Refuses To Die –Invisiblegirl
Now then what have we here?
This is very interesting!
I always feel its sensible to check out what Julia Adamson is releasing on her Invisiblegirl label because she has not let me down yet. And her critical faculties remain in fine fettle on this album from Mark Simpson who performs under the name “The Happy Soul”.
Predominantly one man with acoustic guitar, multi-tracked vocals with the occasional foray into ambient washes of sound in the background. The main style is blues, however it’s blues with a dash of anglo-folk and inter-war (that’ll be WWI and WW2) song stylings. Indeed the genre mix here is uniquely “english” but borrows heavily from the Americas. Several tracks broaden out the sound-scapes with drums and electric guitar which provides excellent variation to the album.
What sticks out is the voice which is, simply put, fantastic. Moving from heart felt blues wailing to a tender upper register lyrical feel with easy sophistication one can’t help but feel happy listening to this collection of relaxed, and relaxing songs. Imagine a Robin Hitchcock song without the inbuilt cynicism and you are close to what Mark is delivering here.
The song structures are clever, and evoke a sense of the pastoral at times – the multi-part “Sexual Ealing” is a case a point with nods towards to prog-rock structures in parts (albeit the more acoustic types of prog dalliance). The middle flute section breaks up the song into two distinct parts. This reflects the variety across the album including a semi-rock piece called “Face to Face with my disgrace” which has a great beat and is probably my favourite track. There are similarities to be drawn with another local blues man – TG Elias – and in places Mark sounds uncannily like Tom – however the 30s/40s style backing vocals set “The Happy Soul” apart.
“The Golden Cage” is another album highlight for me with a mid-tempo beat and achingly beautiful melody, wondrous multi-tracked vocals and exquisite lyrics. Indeed the lyrical content is superb throughout the album with mentions of “Waterstones” and “Kurt Cobain” sticking in my head. The closing “How to break the walls down” , for some odd reason which I cannot fathom, also reminded me of Gabriel era Genesis with its quirky pastoral feel, and also those acoustic tracks Led Zep used to do around the third and fourth albums. Marvellous stuff.
More details on the album and how to get it here.
My Space link.
Recommended to lovers of well crafted songs, with good lyrics, and a great blues voice.