The dedicated fans of Dry the River can wipe away their tears as former member P.D. Liddle has crafted a modern folk album which shows an artist who has matured both sonically and lyrically. Liddle’s captivating debut record, Casual Labour, was completed in just under 5 days with members of his old band joining him on bass (Scott Miller), keys (Patrick Pearson) and strings (Will Harvey). With a lot of the old band back together, this album is certainly still a solo effort as Liddle allows the listener to take a serene and occasionally harrowing voyage through his mind.
Opening the album is his first single, ‘You Shouldn’t Have Called’, a song which shows an artist that is firmly confident in his own talent. Liddle immediately hypnotises you with his enriching vocals that present a soothing dawn to Casual Labour. This is a refreshing and rather brave way to begin the album in regard to the popular trait of starting an album as explosively as possible – this is P.D. Liddle’s way of doing things.
The next two tracks show minimal change in tempo as Liddle tries not to make the start of his record too overwhelming. They do show signs of diversity though – on ‘Good’ he finishes the track with a crunching guitar solo that adds texture to the song which is soft throughout. This track eases into ‘Naica’, a stripped down traditional folk track full of musical subtleties which become more audible with every listen.
‘Excalibur’ is a haunting piece of music which shows a refreshing burst of energy ignited by an array of brass and strings which carve an authentic soundscape. The crashing waves of these instruments add a sense of nobility showing that he can create thunderous music as well as having mastered the subtle.
P.D. Liddle’s music never lacks beauty, nor does his intriguing lyricism lose canniness but he occasionally lacks the ability to escape his sonic comfort zone. Over the next few tracks this is visible and it can be disappointing at times as his songs do frequently show glimmers of unearthing new musical directions and experimentation that he should let happen.
Nevertheless, the title track boasts sharp lyricism as he sings “the curse of the English is never to think when you speak.” We get a glimpse into the mind of P.D. Liddle here as the flaws of the nation perhaps mirror his own imperfections, acting as an excuse in his subconscious for mistakes that he himself has made before. This honesty adds courageousness to his solo music, making it a personal voyage as well as simply a new sound.
By this stage, Casual Labour is screaming out for ‘Uncanny Valley’, the stand out single from the album. The track feels like the artist giving it his all by rounding up each one of his talents and moulding them together. What is very successful is his unique voice and its snaking flow through the song, steering away from predictable forms of melody.
Casual Labour is a valiant effort for P.D. Liddle’s first solo album but it represents an inconsistency with creativity, sometimes finding itself in a visionary rut. However, with the talents that he has at hand, this can abolished in future releases.
CASUAL LABOUR IS NOW AVAILABLE VIA XTRA MILE RECORDINGS.