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'Every Soul A Story'   

-  Label: 'Cattle Call Music'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: '14th February 2020'-  Catalogue No: 'ROSY010'

Our Rating:
Neil Bob Herd was guitarist/vocalist/songwriter in Sid Griffin's long-running 'alt Bluegrass' band, The Coal Porters, who disbanded in 2018. This UK based band, who followed in the cosmic Americana tradition, released six albums in all. The first, in 1991, acknowledges their marginal appeal with the memorable title: 'Rebels Without Applause'.

Herd's Kickstarter-funded debut solo project 'Every Soul a Story' was produced by Dan Swift and apparently recorded "Basement Tapes" style with a small studio in East Kent standing in for the Big Pink. His fundraising pitch for the LP was that it would add "a little more twang, electricity and Scotch Americana to the Porters' purely acoustic palette".

The Dirty Little Acoustic band (Dlab) of dapper backing musicians comprises fellow ex-Porter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Fitzgerald, Glenn Lamberton (bass), Gary Smith Lyons (drums) and another ex-Porter, Gemma White on fiddle and harmony vocals. Lucy Edwards guests on accordion while Billy Muir is credited for a "special percussive menu" (whatever that means!). The banjo is either notable by its absence or relatively understated.

Following the advice of The Proclaimers no less, Herd sings in a geographically non-specific accent. Even so, his voice put me a little in mind of fellow Scot Kenny Anderson (King Creosote) with whom he shares a similar sardonic humour.

The ten original songs take on a nicely balanced variety of subject matter. Given that Herd is now older and wiser, it's no surprise that most songs are tinged with nostalgia. But although the opening tune, Bad Land, acknowledges the ills in the world, cynicism and negativity take a bad seat.

The Colour of History is dedicated to the lost heroes of WW1 while hope for the future is reflected in Light a Single Candle. As Much as I Need To and Exactly What I Wanted are romantic songs refreshingly free of the usual platitudes.

There are a pair of touching dedications to family and friendship: Leave Only Love (Old Dog) and, my personal favourite, Coming Back as Jason in which our brief time on the planet is likened to "a ride on a carousel".

The album title comes from the toe-tapping Everyone's Got a Book Inside Them, an affectionate ode to creativity which affirms that "every gal and every feller has their own best seller". The band sign off with some good old fashioned driving R'n'R in the form of Best Song.

Honest, warm and unpretentious, this LP is a true labour of love so it's only appropriate that they chose Valentine's Day as the release date.

Neil Bob Herd's website
  author: Martin Raybould

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