Gothic Blues Volume One
Tim Scott McConell has been around. Originally from Florida, he's been a member of several bands over the years, signed to major labels and supported big name acts such as Bob Dylan. He's even had a song covered by Bruce Springsteen. Now resident in Norway, in recent years he's been forging a solo career under the moniker of Ledfoot and building a reputation in intimate venues such as London's 12 Bar Club, where I was lucky enough to catch him last year. It was one of those rare occasions when the entire audience becomes aware that they are witnessing something very special - in this case, a truly captivating performance by a charismatic individual equally proficient as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. That night, we all felt as if we'd been let in on a well-kept secret - and one which, surely, could not be kept for very long. With his long white hair, mascara'd eyes, silver jewellery and countless tattoos, Ledfoot had the look of a genuine rock 'n' roll survivor - and one who had probably come close to becoming a rock 'n' roll casualty on more than one occasion.
The aptly named Gothic Blues Volume One is an entirely solo affair recorded over a few hours with no overdubbing. It's easy to see why Ledfoot is going it alone these days - his twelve-string slide guitar work has such a full and atmospheric sound that a band would only get in the way. Notable themes to be found in the thirteen songs featured here include disillusionment, imprisonment, self-destruction, the imminence of death and the futility of religion. There's no redemption for the characters who inhabit this world - just endless days of hard times and struggle as they stumble from one bad relationship or dead end job to another, with only the frequent benders in between to relieve the frustration. Despite the darkness of Ledfoot's vision, however, the record is, somehow, never a depressing listen, but instead feels somewhat cathartic. The stand-out track for me is probably "How You Lose Your Innocence", mainly for its simultaneously catchy and haunting melody, but the quality is remarkably consistent throughout and there's not a weak track to be found. Album closer "Wicked State Of Mind" features what may well be the record's most passionate performance, and one that's sure to send a shiver up the spine as he sings "look into my eyes, you'll see they're as cold as ice".
I have two minor quibbles with this disc, and neither involve the music; firstly, it would have been nice if someone had proof-read the CD booklet, which is full of mistakes, and secondly, the volume comes up rather low in comparison to most CDs these days - surely this could have been addressed during the mastering. However, this is still a spellbinding collection of first rate songs, and one can only hope that Ledfoot finally begins to receive the recognition he so clearly deserves. Roll on volume two!