Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Bill Pritchard, Midland Lullabies, 2019

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

You could call it supper-club pop or a recital at a local town hall (Mother Town Hall?), but whatever name you give to Bill Pritchard's latest collection of songs you'll have to agree that Midland Lullabies is an incredibly wonderful album.

When I reviewed Pritchard's last album, Mother Town Hall, in 2016, I wrote that the album was "just gorgeous and brings to mind the best work of Burt Bacharach and Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson." On Midland Lullabies, Pritchard has upped his game by stripping down his sound. Most of the songs are for just voice and piano, the brilliant keyboard work being provided by producer Tim Bradshaw.

But, of course, it's the amazing melodies that Pritchard has written that give Midland Lullabies its glow. Because, no matter how wonderful the arrangements are, without great tunes there wouldn't be anything worth listening to. And more than a few of the songs on Midland Lullabies are made from the same cloth as classic tunes like "Waterloo Sunset" and "Days" by Ray Davies.

The opening track "Iolanda" introduces the beautiful sound of Pritchard's voice and Bradshaw's sympathetic piano accompaniment. "Lullaby" has the bouncy piano-riff that Paul McCartney used on songs like "Penny Lane." "Lullaby" also adds strings to the piano with a wonderful arrangement like the George Martin arrangements that complemented the songs of The Beatles.

The very fine "Grow" concerns the attention and care that a person can give to a child or a lover. In addition to the piano-and string combination, there's also the swirling sound of an English fairground ride not unlike that from "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" before it was chopped into pieces of tape.

"The Last Tragedy of Brussels" is one of the few songs on the album that include a full band playing with Pritchard. The musicians include guitarist Mike Rhead (who also co-wrote the lovely piano-bass-drums trio of "Lanterns" on Midland Lullabies), Luke Hodkins on drums, and Remy LaPlage on bass. Like the piano and string arrangements, the band never overplays its welcome. "Tuesday Morning" has a country-rock feel and sounds like a musical brother to the terrific "Mont St. Michel" from Mother Town Hall.

One of my favorites on Midland Lullabies is "Garibaldi" where, more than on any other song, Pritchard's voice, along with the piano and strings, mesh to achieve a near-perfect pop song. Pritchard has described his performance on the new album as a "shabby-suited crooner," but it's clear that the suit may be shabby but the performance is anything but.

Midland Lullabies is out now on Tapete Records.

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