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Chris Helme, The Rookery (Little Num Num Music) ****
YORK singer-songwriter Chris Helme releases his latest solo album The Rookery after a long production schedule and frequent gigging, and the effort pays off.
Largely folky with occasional diversions, this is about as laidback an album as you’ve heard in recent months, echoing bands as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Kula Shaker throughout the 11 tracks.
Opening instrumental Pickled Ginger is almost a warm-up, with a kaleidoscope of acoustic guitar, recorder and splashy drums coming across like a theme tune to a nostalgic gardening show, before Longway Round pulls you into acoustic Cast-esque pop.
Mid-track Spindle And The Cauldron is a low-key mystical Led Zep homage, with better music than lyrics, but it’s a standout on the album along with the moody, sleazy Pleased, while Blindeye shows Helme’s guitar skills are better than he let on in the 1990s.
It’s full of nice surprises too, as when the opening of superb late track Daddies Farm, which could easily be an early grunge track, gives way to a chorus straight out of love-filled 1970s pop.
There’s not a badly crafted song here, and it’s so relaxed it’s practically horizontal, but therein lies the rub – you’re always waiting for a storming solo, riff or heavy middle-eight that, with the exception of the excellent Pleased, never really arrives.
But that’s not to detract from Helme’s achievement in creating the album he wanted: cool, relaxed, and destined to be played while drinking with friends on lazy summer afternoons.