Friday, 19 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Neilson Hubbard - Cumberland Island : Proper Records (Out on 19th October 2018)

The name Neilson Hubbard has cropped up numerous times in the producing role of many excellent albums over the past few years that perhaps the moment was right to enter the spotlight. Steps were taken in this direction with the Orphan Brigade project where Nielson collaborated with fellow musicians Ben Glover and Joshua  Britt. Now a major leap has occurred with the release of a brand new solo album titled CUMBERLAND ISLAND. Here Neilson has curated eleven tracks drawn from different periods of his lengthy career to form a theme based around the location in the title. The result is an expansive earthy record scratching deep into the gruff emotions of thoughtful expression. Predominantly, he sinks into submerged insular mode, making the listening experience extremely intimate.

Both Ben and Joshua are involved in this album, either in a co-producing, writing or playing role, with another very familiar name in ace guitarist Will Kimbrough being one to jump out on the pre-release blurb. We also learn that Cumberland Island is located off the coast of Georgia (USA not the Caucuses) and a place dear to the heart of Nielson. The album gets a major lift in Europe via a release on Proper Records and there is likely to be considerable interest this side of pond on the back of the artists associated with Neilson. The Americana community is a ready-made potential audience for this record, especially those who find solace in the rugged deep tones of a singer-songwriter wearing canyons of feeling in their vocal style.

One thing that Neilson never loses sight of is the listener’s quest to hook up onto some chorus appeal. As much as some of us enjoy burying deep into subliminal messages and intrinsic song writing, there can be as much pleasure derived from just sitting back and letting dulcet sound waves drift around. In these moments, the presence of an appealing chorus cannot be under estimated.

Two tracks that fall into this category during the early plays are ‘If The Sun Comes Up Tomorrow’ and ‘That Was Then’. As far as the general vibes are concerned, it will not take long to make the decision to invest a greater amount of listening, but a word of warning is that dissecting this record to the degree that it deserves is no quick fix. So hang in there, and ripe hanging fruit will lower itself into your grasp.

A further delve into the collaborative song writing credits reveals a deeper involvement for Ben and Joshua alongside contributions from familiar names such as Matthew Perryman Jones and Hannah Miller. The latter contributed to the rather impressive ‘Oh Black River’ and a very good recording artist in her own right as exemplified in the excellent endorsement given here for a 2015 self-titled album.

There is an obvious Ben Glover stamp all over this album, or could it be a reciprocation of a Neilson Hubbard stamp on Ben’s records. Likely, it is an immense deep mutual association, which permeates right through their creative souls.

Each of the eleven tracks has a life of their own and the most generous praise afforded is that any review is purely a gateway to experiencing the subtleties of celebrated singer-songwriter roots music. Any lingering doubts around somebody better known behind the scenes crossing the divide  profusely extinguish within the vaults of this album. Cinematic and pensive reflection are two starting points in drafting the listening appeal to Neilson Hubbard’s CUMBERLAND ISLAND, the rest is for you to explore.

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