Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dan Solan

Dan Solan comes from Warrington. Ian Brown was born there and George Formby was buried there. Not much else saves it from anonymity. Dan Solan could be about to put Warrington on the map. Since the sixties one might describe contemporary music as a tale of two cities – Liverpool and Manchester. Being equidistant between the two Dan’s hometown must surely have absorbed their respective influences. Rhythm must have been plumbed into the mains and seeped into the very marrow of his bones.

He is also a rare breed in this day and age – a performer who entertains with solidly written songs that are uncluttered by pretention, over-production or pomposity. It’s just him on lead vocal and rhythm, Steven Kent on guitar and James Halliwell on bass. The whole edifice stands alone without trickery or gimmicks because it’s welded together with pure native talent. This is music that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s music that has Lancashire honesty stencilled all over it. It’s not unkind to say that his songs are not tearing apart the frontiers of innovation. However, of their ilk, they are an incredibly good representation of song-writing that was in danger of becoming lost down a cul-de-sac. He has a natural affinity for melody and composition.

Artistic parents nurtured and encouraged the young Daniel but clearly his creativity is genetic. Upbringing and university simply added a polish to the flair. The tunes just tumble from his fingers and he has already compiled a collection that sounds like they’ve been around for ever, which begs the question as to why aren’t people covering his work in droves? One could imagine ‘The same inside’ given treatment by The Avett Brothers, or ‘Easier to go’ growling from the lips of Leonard Cohen, or ‘Crumbling by noon’ being a contemplation by Greg Laswell. These songs are so good that anyone could take them and cover them in a new skin. Consequently they don’t merit analysis, they don’t benefit from dissection. There is little to say about them. Each one is a little nugget of perfection. They just need to be listened to and enjoyed. He has a great voice and the jangly guitar is an apt conduit for the emotion of each song.

Impressions of Dan’s personal affection for the likes of Coldplay and Radiohead can be heard in a couple of his own numbers and some of them have a slowcore dreaminess about them, but essentially this is the confident product of an immensely competent tunesmith. This stuff doesn’t make you sad in the slightest, it paints smiles on faces. It’s so refreshing to hear song after song that offers genuine melodies and tunes. This is simple stuff, and like anything simple that’s this good – it’s so much harder than it looks.

Ok, so it would be hard to imagine George Formby strumming Dan’s songs on his ukulele but as sure as eggs are eggs he would have been proud that an enormous musical talent can still be fostered in the soil of this unassuming Northern town. One song says it all - ‘Give me today and I’ll give you tomorrow’. How could one express the sentiment any more succinctly? Give Dan the attention he deserves today, and let’s sit back and see what he gives us all tomorrow.

Review by Peter Heydon

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