Mike Liddy review’s Paul Gateshill latest CD: Take my hand.
[New City magazine – 2014]
It may have been twelve years since his last studio album but Paul’s latest musical outing, ‘Take my hand,’ has been worth the wait. From the graceful interplay between acoustic guitar and fretless bass in the opening moments of the first track, ‘Love is Coming Home Again’, to the almost sitar like musings of the final ‘mystery bonus’ track, Paul shows that his virtuosity and song crafting abilities continue to be in the rudest of health.
Everything you might expect from a Paul Gateshill album is here: tight winsome harmonies, exquisite picking, tuneful folk beats and the trademark Knopfler meets Richard Thompson masterful guitar solos. What is also a great pleasure with this album is hearing Paul running the gamut of a host of musical styles, demonstrating he is equally at home with acoustic folk, down-home country, rock, pop and amazingly joyful funk. In fact ‘joy’ is probably the word I would most associate with this collection of songs. Much of the lyrical content alludes to life being something of a mystery but Paul’s album reminds me of the distinction famously offered between the Modernist and the Postmodernist. Both faced with the ultimate Mystery of our existence, the Modernist strives to respond with the ultimately meaningless expression of an individuality, whilst the postmodernist sees in the Mystery, the possibility of having fun. One must face the Mystery alone, the other celebrates it. Paul’s album is a celebration. Even in the potential darkness of the stunningly poignant ‘Sailor Boy’, written about Paul’s elder brother who died prematurely, Paul sings of lighting a lantern. This is a songwriter who shares the light he has found.
Indeed the lyrical content finds Paul musing on a wide range of themes and ideas; from Birth to Death and beyond but as ever with Paul’s music, the profundity of the concerns is fathomed both musically and lyrically with the lightest of touches.
A word or two must be given over to the other musicians who Paul has assembled here. The songs are beautifully underpinned by the tightest of rhythm sections; Sav Buttaci’s bass lines will surely be sampled by grateful music makers for years to come; Paul White’s percussion is as sympathetic to the beat of Paul’s own playing that it is as if they are both inspired by the same Muses and Mark Gateshill’s guitar shows that the apple rarely falls far from the talent tree as he plays rhythm with the touch of a maestro. Anna Frazer’s cello playing kind of makes you wish she’d played on every song you’ve ever heard. And Bethany Friery’s vocal accompaniments are like listening to what a soul must sound like if you ever got one in a studio in front of a microphone. Her flute playing is also wonderfully transcendent.
It is impossible to single out specific tracks for particular praise. It would be like favouring a particular thread from a tapestry. Each song works together to create an image of Paul’s belief in the value of, as he puts it in the album notes ‘friendship…solidarity and community’. And each songs bears listening to again and again.
You get the sense here that this is a man who has found what he’s looking for but far from this meaning that the journey ends, Paul, through his songs shares the joy of the continued ride. You can almost hear him smiling. Take my advice, take his hand and you’ll be smiling too.