Daniel has made a name in the roots world as a purveyor of boogie-woogie honky tonk music, fuelled considerably by associations with artists such as Old Crow Medicine, Sturgill Simpson, and on a slightly different level, working with Diana Jones. On the other hand, constriction has never been on the agenda and versatility on a performing scale has escalated into a widespread touring role as keyboard player for Ocean Colour Scene. Maybe this latter influence has rubbed off on the new record as the retro throwback feel is discarded in favour of a far more ramped up rock style, fashioned by a domination, at least on the edges, by stirring electric guitar and fuller bodied production.
The contrast on the outer to his last DIY release SHOOTING STARS AND TINY TEARS is stark, but dig deeper and some similarities emerge. Strong song writing still looms large and a factual nugget accompanying the album is that all nine songs (not numerically compliant for the decimalised obsessive) began life as letters to oneself with a purpose to reassure and soothe in darker times. Song titles such as ‘As Good as it Gets’, ‘Nothing Really Matters’, ‘The Day the Clown Stopped Smiling’ and ‘If the Bombs Don’t Kill Us’, get the suggestive juices flowing before you even spin the disc, or whatever alternative mode of play you choose.
The first of this run of songs acts as the album opener and induces the immediate reaction of ‘wow this is different’. Once acclimatised, it actually evolves into one of the standout tunes and is compulsive in its transition from artist to listener. ‘Nothing Really Matters’ and the recently issued album single ‘My Oh Oh My’ follow in a similar vein, giving the album an indie feel, bringing the rhythm from a toe tapping to more of a head nodding motion. The ‘..Bombs..’ is a curious number at the heart of the album with the explosion of mid-song crashing guitars being synonymous with the lexicon choice of the title.
On a couple of occasions, the album does slide a little away from its general direction. ‘So Much for Sorrow’ ditches the instrumentation for a vocal echo and a chant-like song, propelling the analogy ‘you take tomorrow, I’ll take today’ on more than one instance. Thus creating a thought provoking strapline for the piece, maybe even for the album. At the end of the record, Daniel slips back into acoustic mode for ‘Don’t We All’, probably the strongest link to what we have come to expect from his previous output. Although ‘How High We Fly’ did venture into this realm earlier in the record. More ballad than outright rocker.
Change apart, WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME represents an artist in control of where they are heading and it is the case of all being invited whatever your musical persuasion is. Fans of Daniel Meade will still hitch a ride on his journey and this record provides an opportunity to branch out from a roots community that been the domain of his solo output and work with the Flying Mules. It is commendable that an artist remains true to their conviction. There is without doubt a lot more creativity to come from Daniel Meade. When the dust settles on this impressive release, thoughts will turn to what next from this prolific performer. However, no doubt Daniel will chip in ‘you take tomorrow, I’ll…’