Davey Woodward has been spent almost four decades writing and performing with his previous bands, The Brilliant Corners and The Experimental Pop Band. Having recently finished recording with Karen, Woodward has recorded another album, this time with artists that he has not previously worked with. These include guitarists, Julian and Mark, along with drummer, Steve (I’m not able to elaborate any further on this one, sadly.) Thus, The Winter Orphans were born (in a literal sense, no actual childbirth was involved in the making of this album.) This first, eponymous album is released on Tapete Records on 17th August 2018.
It is said that this album “takes you back to a time when albums were a collection of songs that transported you to another place.” Unfortunately, I am trying to work out where that place actually is.
The sound is very much stripped back, and draws heavily on the influences of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. It’s a mix of laid back folk and blues. The third track, ‘Girl in the Hoops‘ is very reminiscent of Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love‘. It is also fitting that Dylan gets a namecheck in the closing track, ‘Dylan’s Poster‘. Woodward doesn’t just mention him, but throughout the album, appears to be trying very hard to sound like Dylan, which is a pity as this is distracting from the songs themselves.
Lyrically, it sounds at times like Woodward is trying to emulate the wit and charm of Ray Davies; sadly, he does not quite reach those heights. The second track, ‘Build a Boat‘ is an autobiographical track that could have a lot of potential, but rather than being an observational piece on growing up with mixed race parents in the sixties and seventies, it comes across more like that random bloke who has just sat down at your table in the pub, and starts to tell you his life story. Sure, he might be a nice bloke, but you’d only come out for a quiet drink, and you’re too polite to tell him to go away, so now you’re stuck with him.
That’s the other thing about this album. It’s hard to find a real connection with what is going on. It took me a while to work out why, and then it hit me, unlike this recording. There’s no emotion, no passion. ‘Build a Boat‘ talks about Woodward taking a beating, but unlike Paul Weller’s anger, fear and frustration in The Jam’s ‘Down in a Tube Station at Midnight‘, there is no edge in Woodward’s delivery. The opener, ‘Caroline‘ about a missing girl, is devoid of any emotion that enables you to feel empathy for the subject and the artist. Lyrically, without any feeling being shown, I can’t tell if this album is autobiographical, semi-autobiographical, observational or political.
Instrumentally, however, all of the tracks seamlessly blend together; instead of being a collection of different songs, it felt like different movements in one whole piece. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but that’s about the best thing about this album. It’s nice, however it’s not going to stop you in your tracks.
Davey Woodward And The Winter Orphans is released on 17th August through Tapete.