People And Their Dogs is the debut album of Oxfordshire singer/songwriter Willie J Healey. Grounded in observations of everyday mundanity, it is a cool breeze of youthfulness. At times it is utterly inspired and romantic, at others trying to get something seriously substandard past you, pretending that it brushed its teeth by putting a spot of toothpaste on its tongue.
It’s as if there are two performers on this recording, evidence, perhaps, that Healey is still trying to find his voice – literally. It’s a bit of a lucky dip which Healey you will get on each track. The most distinctive and possibly authentic songs are the gentler tracks. ‘Marie’s Balcony’ is predominantly acoustic guitar and bass. It is a romantic melody of ‘sweet dreams and pretty things’. The slide guitar lilts and sways. It is altogether a mature and accomplished song that sounds as if Healey both knows it and is proud of it.
‘All These Things’ is similar. From the opening strum, Healey brings lazy summer days and young love, ‘I’ll be yours to keep if you come and hang out with me’. ‘Pipedreams’ is rockier in places with Healey showcasing the vocal mannerisms of Elvis Costello. The final of these more serious pieces is ‘Somewhere In Between’. Significantly moodier, due to the inclusion of a saxophone and slow drumming, Healey performs some creditable Marc Bolan quavering over the top.
Other tracks well-deserving of a mention are ‘My Room’ and the title track ‘People And Their Dogs’. Both are expansive and musically varied. ‘Subterraneans’, likewise, proves that Healey is the master of the pause. This track celebrates the beautiful things in life like cool places and boys that sing. Shades of ‘Across The Universe’ creep into ‘We Should Hang’, a love song enhanced by the addition of a female vocalist.
There are also a number of songs that would translate very well to a live setting, true festival pleasers. Louder almost punkier tracks, such as ‘Greys’, have not so much jangling, as metal-rattling guitars. This track arrives on a puff of youthfulness. As does ‘Would You Be’, a marvellously energetic finish to People And Their Dogs which should have a field of shaggy haired and be-hatted twenty-somethings in full voice.
There’s no doubt there’s plenty of success on People And Their Dogs, a talent that can’t help but come out, no matter how much Healey tries to disguise it! A little more attention to the undeveloped tracks and even bravery in developing his own style will surely pay off.
People And Their Dogs will be released on 18th August 2017 through National Anthem/Columbia Records.