THE BLOG

Justin Currie - Lower Reaches Review

27/08/2013 15:43 BST | Updated 26/10/2013 10:12 BST

In a recent radio appearance on BBC Scotland - the presenter finished off the live set from Justin Currie with a comment about how during interviews he is often self-deprecating, but then he sings. And there the lie of his modesty is revealed. Currie is a hugely under-rated singer - and he is partly to blame for that. His distinctive and soulful vocal has graced two solo albums in the last six years - with a heavy emphasis on heartbreak and heartache - and his third outing on his own offers only a slight shift in focus - musically more than lyrically.

The opening Falsetto's harder and darker guitar chords typify that, with an emotionally charged reflection on an overbearing father. It oozes class - while the album's finale features Currie coming close to the aforementioned falsetto, as Little Stars pushes his vocal range further than it's been pushed before. The song's exquisite description of two lovers, working their way through life is both tragic and beautiful. Falsetto and Little Stars book end the ten tracks here, and they are the best two songs.

Lower Reaches was recorded in Austin, Texas - and the evidence of the surroundings are clear, with the country-tinged Bend To My Will, which is the most Del Amitri like track here. It has a gentle opening followed by an instantly singalong chorus and contains a classic piece of Currie observation - "and I feel my body going south so I take the scenery in". Those moments of wry and humorous observations are slightly less in evidence here than on his previous solo outings - but the music is certainly more adventurous, as the Tom Petty-like On A Roll proves or the equally country-rock sounding I Hate Myself For Loving You. Both have a seemingly deliberate heavy bass mix - which works well against Currie's vocal.

The country theme is hammered home with On My Conscience - with its slide guitar and jaunty rhythm - in a tale of emotional revenge. While that is a fun interlude - the most instant track is Every Song's The Same, an almost perfect two and half minutes of Justin Currie at his very best. It touches you in the head and the heart in equal measure. Two tracks are slightly tainted by the use of a programmed drum, with neither Prescilla or Into A Pearl greatly benefiting from it. Better is the bleaker Half Of Me's emotional turmoil, which is backed by a dark piano and keyboard refrain under a warning to fans; "Half of me is ready to retire, but half of me is still riven with a fire".

It seems unlikely that Currie is thinking about hanging up his boots just yet though - as despite his utterings and grumblings, he is still very much on top of his game. However there might be a break from the solo material for a time, as a recent publicity photograph hints at a reunion with Iain Harvie from Del Amitri. He may find that like his fellow Glasgow singer James Grant (lead singer of Love & Money) that reforming the band that made your name, reinvigorates you. Before then Currie is on the road again in September, with solo dates across the UK.