They say good things come in threes and Case Hardin’s new album COLOURS SIMPLE explicitly lives up to this quip. It’s their issue number three on the Clubhouse Records label, the third full collaboration from the four core band members and the astute listener can implicitly detect three strands to the sound of the record. On by far one of the most interesting releases of 2015 to date, Pete Gow leads Case Hardin into the territory of song writing excellence, ensuring every ounce of small letter soul infiltrates each crevice to once again proclaim the majesty of the full album. To further ingrain that classic feel, the liner notes inspire with heartfelt nostalgia alongside some beautiful mind bending cover art suggesting a blending of simplicity with the abstract. This is in tune with the mood of the album which blossoms with maturity and intelligence as the listener is taken on a path, dark in places, but for ever lit up by the glow of Gow’s lyrical brilliance.
This pedigree release tests and teases, probes and pleases throughout its ten track–fifty minute occupation of your undivided attention with perhaps little appeal for the casual listener which makes it even more special for those who like to bury themselves in the lyrical content. Recorded in the Reservoir Studios of Chris Clarke, the home of so much valued English alt-country rock, this canvas of masterly music delivers on a grand scale and will no doubt get articulate scribes brimming with superlatives. However let’s turn the wider praise into micro analysis and consider the three strands to the sound’s reception.
On three tracks, the record envelops itself into a complex structure with multiple layers and gear changes led off by album opener ‘Poet’s Corner’. This chorus free masterpiece will demand eight minutes of your initial attention, but will reward with a rock masterclass merging faint organ with a mid-song explosion of sound. On a lesser scale, ‘These Three Cities’ continues the mood with a more intrinsic feel to the pace change as the narrative of the song unveils. The final part of this intriguing trio is the folk rock vibes complete with vibrant fiddle which decorates one of the two Gow/Jim Maving co-writes in ‘A Mention in Dispatches’.
Maving who plays all lead and slide guitar on the album also assisted in the writing of ‘Roll Damnation Roll’ which heads a quartet of songs less complex and more acoustic led. Of the four this is the greater upbeat number with mandolin and piano threaded throughout aiding attractive appeal along with the first track on the record to contain a conventional and memorable chorus. By contrast ‘Fiction Writer’ is a softly delivered vocal effort from Gow with low key guitar supporting a piece revealing yet another intriguing character. On the back of the lengthy opener, the album returns to post–seven minute song territory with the seedy tale of a similarly double life in ‘High Rollers’. Once again it’s a low slow song allowing Gow to inject belief into the character. Acoustic melody closes the album in ‘Another Toytown Morning’ as this name-laden song presents interesting themes and provides an outlet for the lyrics to blossom.
The final song strand is three straight up rockers giving the album renewed energy and a balanced output to substantiate its complete feel. The familiar brass section trio of Geoff Widdowson (aka the Champs ‘Free Jazz Geoff’) and the Bennett Brothers (aka The Dreaming Spires) ignites a rock n’ soul track lifted as the album’s first single titled ‘Cheap Streaks From a Bottle’. ‘The Streets are Where the Bars are (The Bars are Where the Girls Will Be)’ is a basic good ole Americana drenched rock 'n' roller lifted by piano and one of the few tracks to have a straightforward song structure backed by a strong chorus. A further bracketed title ends this brief song analysis in ‘(Jesus Christ Tomorrow Morning) Do I Still Have to Feel This Way?’ with a single lingering thought. Its hook has more than an uncanny resemblance to ‘Am I the Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way’) from the Dixie Chicks album WIDE OPEN SPACES. However who cares as both tracks are superb efforts.
Quite simply, with no pun intended, COLOURS SIMPLE by Case Hardin is a record to treasure and a collection of songs knee deep in marvelled magnificence. Long live the complete album in all its glory and that a British band from the thriving independent sector can engage in such artistry.