There is a point of view which defines Americana music as rock with a little bit of country, although a more preferable definition from my angle is where a sound draws on a blend of influences from the pool of rock, country, folk, blues and soul. If you want to listen to an archetypal album that fits neatly into this package then look no further than STAY TRUE, the dynamic new record from Danny and the Champions of the World. In a switch from their previous releases which leaned more towards folk/rock, Danny George Wilson and his open invitation for guest musicians to become honorary Champs has added a more soulful feel to this album which is a bubbling mix of yesteryear designed to ensure the future is shaped with the right ideals.
With a concoction of sounds very reminiscent to what Stax attempted to create in the sixties, Danny has let the creative ideas of both full time and part time Champs run amok and found a winning formula to house his vocals which echo of a bygone age. This fourth album since Danny formed the Champs back in 2007 will find its own niche in the mature and integrity preserved music market and will not need many listens to rocket towards the upper echelons of your appreciation scale. In fact one spin is probably all that’s needed to get on the same wavelength as Danny and the guys.
You will be hooked three minutes and fifty seconds into this record as no time is wasted in introducing the stand out track. ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’ is as good as opening song as you could expect and a delightful true tale of exploration, wonder and dream. The soulful feel to the album extends from the classic style ballad ‘Stop Thief’ to several other tunes including ‘Cold Cold World’, ‘Darling Won’t You Come In From The Cold’ and ‘Lets Grab This With Both of Our Hands’.
For this record Danny, who has been active this summer with his solo acoustic set, has once again called on the full time Champs of Chris Clarke (bass), Paul Lush (Guitar), Steve Brookes (drums), Rosalie Deighton (vocals) and Geoff Widdowson (organ/sax).The contribution of honorary Champs is a long and exciting list including Melvin Duffy on Pedal Steel, folk duo Hannah Lou and Trevor Moss as well as the multi talented Bennett Brothers from The Dreaming Spires. Like minded artists Ahab and Foghorn Leghorn have also participated in the recording process. Listen carefully and picking out the multitude of instruments is not difficult.
Two other tracks worthy of mention both possess a folk flavour to them with the banjo sound coming more to the forefront. It underpins the re-energising track ‘Breaking Out’ which anchors the mid part of the record and ‘Talkin’ About The Weather’ is another tune with a roots seasoning to it. ‘Time and Again’ is the perfect closing number dealing with a little reflection and a hit of regret.
There will certainly be no regrets with getting yourself acquainted with STAY TRUE and when Danny and the Champions of the World hit the road this autumn with their high energetic live show the opportunity to savour it in a variety of lively small venues should not be missed. Album of the year? Too early to say. Contender? Definitely.