They’ve kept people waiting a bit for the second album…the Misers’ first, Amplified Life Stories, as choice a slice of Americana pie as ever came out of the West Midlands, was released in 2009 but now, with A Weight Off The Mind (Is Still A Load On The Shoulders), they’re broadening out a bit, steppin’ out and strutting their stuff. A strong American rock and alt.country influence is still detectable however (the Who-like introduction to Old Town notwithstanding) and in fact the opening, title track seems to be inviting the participation of Emmylou Harris. But it’s to songwriter and frontman Neil Ivison’s great credit that he hasn’t thought it necessary to affect an American accent for these songs. His singing, alway strong, is at its most effective in the slower numbers – he gives an impressive vocal performance on Back In Your Arms and really stretches himself out for the album closer Second Time. And the band now have a ready-made anthem in My Life Story complete with rock star guitar solo. Which will come in handy, no doubt, in the bigger venues they should be playing before too long.
One reason for the late appearance of the second album is that this four-piece band lost two of its members and gained two replacements in the interim – and also radically changed their approach to recording, from warts-and-all analogue to the kind you do with computers. It seems to have worked though. With new band members Paul Connup (guitar) and Sid Griffin (bass) alongside – or more probably in front of – original drummer Shane Dixon, their sound is crisp, the arrangements are often subtle; and I especially like the complementary acoustic guitar and cello on The Shrine and the mariachi-mandolin style of I Got A Woman – it’s here that the aforementioned Ms Harris gets a proper reference, along with Gram and Johnny’n'June. (And is there a more subtle homage to Gillian Welch’s I Dream A Highway at this point?)
If there is a fault with the album, it’s perhaps the aspect of ‘being all things to all people’ and the lack of a unified style. But that’s hardly a criticism of a band that’s currently refining its approaches and exploiting its crossover appeal. I’ll come clean and say I was an instant fan of the first album and found this one harder to get into; which is probably a sign that it’ll stay with me for longer.
So, Misers, what direction for a third album, if we may look so far ahead? Here’s a thought: Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers all had their breakthrough third albums produced by Jimmy Iovine. Wonder whether Jimmy’s busy these days?
And here’s a taste of the new album – Fine Line and Back In Your Arms. Release date is November 5. Hmm, we’ve got fireworks here in MK already.