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Chris Brain – Steady Away Review

Considered charms of the Yorkshire valleys are kindling an uncredited new era for English folk. With the likes of Katie Spencer and Henry Parker already whittling away in the comfortable confines of heartfelt ballads, a burst of the lush bubble is bound to happen. Whether it captures the wider reaches of the country and beyond is yet to be seen, but with the steady trickle of tremendous releases, from The Edge of the Land to this recent piece from Chris Brain, Steady Away, it seems promising. Leeds-based folk musician Brain can hold his head high with this sophomore release, a developing and articulate piece of nostalgia blurred in with colloquial beauty.  

Steady and tranquil experiences on opening track Golden Days set the mood tremendously. Those lush strings backing Brain wash over the listener with real elegance. There is a stellar warmth flowing through the whole album, and it is hard not to feel it shake off sour thoughts the more it progresses. Rolling Wave is a delicate treat whereas the preceding track Silence is anything but. Never a note wasted and a vast improvement in the areas where it matters when compared to the short and sweet debut record, Bound to Rise. Steady and playful tones come through on Steady Away and it is much to the credit of the acoustic beauty. It sounds so delicate and when isolated, draws on the refined and foundational qualities of tremendous playing, as it is toward the bridge of Wish. 

Gifts of fate and tremendously sombre recollections of recent memories are the core of Steady Away. Brain navigates those with tenderness and real joy to them, as on the autumnal delicacy Tawny. Should colours of orange and brown not symbolise the experience, the slower-paced style of playing, which bleeds over into an aptly titled Instrumental will shore up any worries. As ever with Brain’s work, the first few songs test the waters of what is to come, and a confident stride is soon found. Comfort can be found in the lush charms of folk but the recent boom, the nice shuffle of the deck and the Leeds-clad glories of Steady Away are a real charm. Delightful double pairing Weeping Willow and Now Westlin Winds brings about the nature-heavy focus. It comes from hikes and better times in the great outdoors.  

Those experiences outside, which are difficult for those tied to their Tassimo machine to come by, are not as elusive as once thought. There is beauty in the merits and charms of Brain’s work here and Steady Away builds upon what his listeners already know. For those out of the loop, in here is the blueprint for a successful surge of folk music for UK musicians. Patches of excellence for an already promising musician, whose array of calming and impressive works grows ever stronger thanks to Steady Away. Taking this Yorkshire folk boom to the next level, Brain sets the new standard for a delightful period of heartfelt and nostalgic pieces inspired by the landscape. Autumnal feelings are not seasonal after all, and the summery September skies which beat down on the screen when listening to an advance copy are as sweet as they are a month later, bracing the winds and fending off rogue leaves.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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