Ode Trip reviewed by Jack Boyce for Kurrent Music

CLT’s new album consists of only five songs.

The episodic nature of the longer tracks ensures that we are never bored and rewards attention with musical changes and textures.

Here is an artist in complete control of his craft.

The album’s opener Uncle Arlie’s Hat of Dreams finds Tucker at his whimsical best. Accompanied by his trademark harmonium drone, he delivers the tale of ‘aged Uncle Arlie’ who, at first, appears to be a rural hobo ‘sleeping in a field of barley’ in an old felt hat ‘…of all the felt hats Arlie ever felt, none felt as good as that felt hat felt’ quips Colin in the first verse.

Like so many of his songs there is a sting in the tale, revealed in its closing chorus.

I can hear so many influences in this track, the word play of Lear and Carroll, the wandering chord progressions of Syd Barrett and a little of Tucker’s friend Robin Williamson (Incredible String Band) in the vocal delivery.

The Dead Tobacconist follows, bringing us to a far earthier place. A twelve-bar blues with drums, bass, Hammond organ, guitar and later, horns and harmonica performed by the same Chicago musicians that CLT employed back in 2019. 

This is not an attempt at Americana though, once again the lyric places us in rural England with ‘chalky downs glistening in the pouring rain’. We find the narrator in a market town where he meets a tobacconist ‘a sad-eyed man who looked like he carried the can for every single grey English day’.

Tucker takes a guitar solo in the style of, I kid you not, B.B.King and the track soars with brass and a clever mash-up of Sonny Terry’s harmonica, the song returns with, once again, a twist in the narrative.

At nearly ten minutes A Place I Want to Be is the albums centre piece. A slow burn with gentle acoustic guitars, piano, some electric guitar musing to the metronomic beat provided by a knock on wood sound. Later, as the rhythm picks up this is joined by tambourine and tom toms. Occasionally the groove pauses before returning, each time with more intensity. By the time the vocal appears the guitar is chugging along with a gravely over driven sound, tom toms are thumping and we could be listening to The Velvet Underground.

The journeying theme is further enhanced by the opening line ‘Following the line of her infinite gaze, I could see she was miles away…’ 

Four short verses later the tension is at a climax and the music can no longer contain itself, taking over with the throb of pounding piano, guitars and feedback…whatever next…

…how about a trip to California?

A capella voices chant ‘Ba-lloon, Ba-lloon’ at the start of Big Balloon, a song that after an Anthony Newly-est introductory verse plunges us into a nineteen-sixties style pop song that could have been born of the sunshine state. All jangling guitars, backing vocals and wonderment.

It seems CLT wants to give his friend a birthday treat and asks ‘How ‘bout a ride in a big balloon?’ he offers to ‘bring the dope and a telescope’ but his friend turns down the offer on account of suffering from vertigo. Unperturbed Colin tries to smooth things over with an Elvis impersonation and offers a trip to the movies or zoo instead.

After the intense heaviness of the preceding track Big Balloon is a light-hearted romp with an amusing lyric and displays stunning musicality. Edited down this would make a fine single.

There has already been one single issued from Ode Trip and that was Guardian Angel, a beautiful seven-minute ballad that works perfectly as a closing track.

On Guardian Angel Tucker makes it clear that he has no rules when it comes to song construction. John Porters bluesy guitar works brilliantly alongside sweeping Melotron strings and choir sounds, strange chords are made to feel at home and a touching lyric is delivered with an understated majesty. ‘She’ll uncoil the strings attached to your kite, wrap you up in her wings and together you’ll take flight…

Once again, an engaging and diverse collection from CLT that works as an album due to the strength of the man’s personality and character. 

Few artists could have pulled this off but pull it off he has. To sum up in one word…remarkable.

Jack Boyce for Kurrent Music

Jack B. reviews C.L.T.s latest release

Colin Lloyd Tucker – Guardian Angel

Samphire Records. April 2. 2021.

As a ‘single’ Tucker’s latest release falls down on every level.

It fails to meet any of the criteria the medium requires.

So long that breakfast D.J.s will be down the pub by the time it reaches its finale verse, it lacks a sing-a-long chorus and a danceable beat.

It’s slow, but there are slow singles, right? But, slow singles are usually packed with emotional hyperbole to hammer at the heart of the most disinterested listener.

From its cranky Mellotron introduction we wait over 2 minutes to hear ‘that voice’. Along the way we are treated to heavenly choirs and John Porter’s haunting slide guitar, on the face of it a very strange brew…but wait, there is a weird alchemy in play here.

Guardian Angel is extremely cool.

Tucker recently stated that he sees himself as an old school songwriter and it seems that his pencil is sharp and his muse burning bright. 

The song is under-pinned by Tucker’s plucked acoustic guitar that navigates a reassuringly conventional chord sequence that occasionally veers off into a strange, unexpected place, creating a feeling of weightlessness. Bill Branwell’s fretless bass joins him on these excursions before crashing back down to the root to satisfying effect. A thumping drum (a Salvation Army marching drum, I am reliably informed) enters at this point.

The lyrics begin in the third person as C.L.T. relates a story of how ‘Jacob lost his ladder’ and ‘found a pair of hover-boots’ but soon he addresses the listener directly, a more universal theme develops concerning our own attempts to control destiny.

It becomes clear the C.L.T.’s Guardian Angel is not of the biblical kind but ‘more like a feeling…in the pit of your stomach’ as he pulls the listener in in a conversational style that he has made his own.

This is heady stuff that latches onto your brain like a limpet mine. I found that, after hearing it a few times, lines re-entered my head at regular intervals, waiting at traffic lights ‘try not to let that dream obscure the view, if you do this you will miss avenues new’, standing in a socially distanced queue ‘you have a guardian angel, you may not hear her speak, but she’s there inside you…somewhere deep’.

In these rather sad times Tucker’s Guardian Angel is a ray of light in which he displays empathy with his listeners, encouraging self-belief with a promise of hope.

As a taster for his forthcoming album this track does the job brilliantly…it’s not a ‘single’ though.

Jack B.