Intelligent rock-folk, mostly originals, from Little Johnny England and Dylan Project guitar/vocalist. Some sensitive tunes too. Full band including Fairporters Pegg and Sanders add funk and texture.
BBC Radio 2 folk and accoustic website
The state of Little Johnny England is fitful at best so the arrival of PJ Wright's solo effort goes someway to rectify the situation. From the off, it's noticeable how his guitar style – close to gunslinger, shoot from the hip – and rough-edge vocal have become so readily the sound of LJE; add in the melodeon of Gareth Turner on Random Acts Of Kindness and the deception's almost real.
But the cover bears Wright's name and his conglomerate musical philosophy rules the day, be it the kind of social protest that Alan Hull once espoused on Wait For The Whistle To Blow, delicate guitar picking through Peter Brown's Fancy or Madeleine, or head-down, no-nonsense boogie on Electric Railway.
A parade of usual suspects add support and bonhommie that's always close to the surface and yer man is never less than optimistic about a better tomorrow. After all, how can you resist a man who gives a sleeve dedication to Aunties Audrey and Shirl or resist a lyric that runs: "People give blood / their time and their love / in a million random acts of kindness / a million daily acts of faith"? Do well to remember that when days seem sour!
This is an excellent first solo outing from the Little Johnny England and ex-Steve Gibbons Band guitarist. The album is definitely at the rock end of folk-rock, but there's nothing wrong with that.
The material is a fine showcase for Wright's guitar playing but it is the strength of his songwriting skills that really impresses. From the world weariness of Skin of My Teeth to the optimism of Indisputable Thing there are some lovely lyrical touches. There's a splendid version of the Wright/Turner composition Random Acts of Kindness, great rock-blues on Electric Railway and some fine bluesy humour on Going Up Leicester, complete with East Midlands dialect and pseudo-vinyl scratches.
The folkier end of the proceedings has three instrumentals of contrasting styles, including the traditionally based Nether Bagwash, and a version of Pete Scrowther's narrative ballad, Lily of Barbary, with guest appearances from Dave Pegg and Ric Sanders. There are some handy contributions from Gareth Turner, Tom Leary, the peerless bass player, Roger Innis and great oboe playing from Jude Rees.
Folk On Tap
Little Johnny England's PJ Wright showcases his talent as a songwriter with this solo outing. But what comes across, in the main, is his versatility as a guitarist – twangy guitar, slide, dobro and, most particularly, big fat rock guitar are all on display. There's also a rather charming acoustic guitar solo, Madeleine, as well as an interesting duet with fiddler Ric Sanders on Peter Brown's Fancy.
The songs range from those in a traditional vein, like Pete Scrowther's Lily of Barbary, to the humourous faux-blues Going Up Leicester, complete with surface noise and sticking needle. Impressive production too.
He's backed Bobby Vee and Del Shannon; he spent the 1980s and '90s as lead guitarist for Steve Gibbons; he's part of the Dylan Project with Gibbons and Fairporters Pegg, Nicol and Conway; and for the past six years he has fronted Little Johnny England. So it's about time the Leicester-born musician got round to making a solo album.
Given his background, it's pretty much what you'd expect with largely self-penned folk-rock inclined songs and socio-politically concerned lyrics about the working man and the daily grind with the odd relationship number for good measure.
With guest musicians that include Anna Ryder, Dave Pegg, Gareth Turner and Ric Sanders, it's a solid rather than stunning album but that's by no means a put-down. There are three instrumentals, a clumpingly fine Nether Bagwash Suite, the gentle acoustic guitar tune Madeleine and the rustic slow air Peter Brown's Fancy which spotlights Sanders on violin.
Wait For The Whistle To Blow (a lament about the nine to five life) is a feisty little number straight out of LJE while Random Acts of Kindness (which nicks the line 'how can a poor man stand such times and live') could easily slip into a Fairport set without you noticing.
Maritime tales wash up with Pete Scrowther's Lily Of Barbary (a tale of slave made good finding true romance) and Indisputable Thing, a song of love, dreams and growing old that sounds a lot like Tom Robinson.
On the downside, shifting from boats to trains, Electric Railway is a bit of a misfire, a sluggish blues-rock number that doesn't warrant its instrumental reprise as the closing track. Going Up Leicester (a scratchy acoustic blues sung in an authentic and impenetrable Leicester accent) should probably have been left as the 'idea down the pub' that it probably began life as.
The hedge could have done with some judicious pruning, but there's still some fine foliage here.
PJ Wright has impeccable credentials ... most recently as lead vocalist and guitarist with ace folk-rock outfit Little Johnny England (and) The Dylan Project with members of Fairport Convention.
It's a matter for rejoicing that he's now found time to record a solo album, and it contains at least four absolute winners among its eleven tracks while for at least two-thirds of its length it's a damn fine product by any standards.
It opens in excellent form with Wait For The Whistle To Blow, a typically solid, well-crafted, catchy LJE-style uptempo rant about contemporary working life, then sort-of-continuing the theme with Random Acts Of Kindness (giving full rein to PJ's brillliant rocking guitar), before Pete Scrowther's folk-tale Lily Of Barbary and a glorious galumphing rocked-up-folk instrumental, Nether Bagwash. After ... the otherwise perfectly decent relationship song The Skin Of Our Teeth, a brace of markedly less distinguished compositions sandwiched between two gentle (if brief) instrumental pieces, and a fake-vinyl-scratch cod-blues, Going Up Leicester. The album closes on a bit of a filler in the form of an instrumental reprise of Electric Railway's workmanlike pseudo-Feat/Skynyrd groove.
A bloody marvellous album, more rock-folk than folkrock... all but one of the songs are either penned by Wright or by Wright with a little help from his friends ... the title is a play on words between Spector’s Wall of Sound and PJ Wright’s rural Warwickshire home...
I can thoroughly recommend this album to anyone with a good taste in music ... instantly pleasing ... the regional dialect in the song ‘Gooin’ oop Les-teh’ (Going Up Leicester) might be a little difficult for readers outside the UK to understand, or even readers outside Leicester ... I really can’t stress enough just how much I like this album.