The latest album from folk troubadour M G Boulter – Clifftown is a wonderful collection of 12 songs based on reflections, memories and stories about Essex coastal locations, mainly in the locale of Southend-On-Sea. These themes are successfully combined through deeply personal and sometimes homely lyrics without wandering into cliché territory.
Musically the overriding reference point is Paul Simon. And very much on show here is Matthew Boulter's knack of blending excellent song constructs from that particular maestro with a contemporary sound.
‘Midnight Movies’ kicks us off with a single snare drum accompanying slide guitar and strings, and announces a thread that weaves through the album, namely tales of night-time adventurings. ‘Soft White Belly’ rocks it up and describes the sheer difficulty of adolescent communication with the opposite sex, whether through far-away admiration of a girl playing slot machines, or over lunch “The girls in my café speak Spanish all the time”
This is an album of opposites swinging from the warmth of the upbeat African rhythm (a la Paul Simon) on ‘The Author Of All Things, She Speaks’ to ‘Icy Paw’ a stripped back tune that lets us feel the chill of the air through this heartfelt tale of children’s late night playtime on the jetty in midwinter. The vocal on Icy Paw takes on a nasal quality, putting this writer very much in mind of Jake Bugg.
My favourite lyric on the album is “Slipping a preparation under my tongue, I make my way to the parade of shops where I’m due to perform” from ‘The Slow Decline’ a song with a sultry guitar middle-eight & outro.
In a change of location, ‘Simon Of Sudbury’ ventures into neighbouring Suffolk delivering a tune with an other-worldly atmosphere and a gentle choral vocal “who knows next where we might tread”. This leads to three final numbers, all melancholy in nature, including ‘Remnants’, the penultimate track and perhaps the most striking song on the album
I’ve referenced earlier how personal this album feels. Best described by the narrative in track 3, carrying the album title ‘Clifftown’. A wistful story, this time touching on the ever-present draw of nearby London, ultimately resisted through perhaps the most heartfelt lyric “...they chatter upon as if they’re speaking directly to my heart ‘Leave this town; Leave this town; You have your chance’ but I slip through them and out into the dark”
To tie in with the release of the record there is a podcast series telling some of the stories HERE