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Alexander Wolfe - Morning Brings a Flood (Dharma Records)

Star rating: 

The debut album from New Cross based singer-songwriter Alexander Wolfe finds itself in the 'if you like Nick Drake, you'll like this' section of the record store, which really may as well be distributed throughout the store in several other sections as well including Paul Weller's, Tom Baxter's, Jeff Buckley's or even The Smiths. Well maybe only for the use of one line I must confess.

Wolfe may come from a similar privileged background as the Bard of Tanworth-in-Arden, his grandfather having the impressive title of the Count de Menthon. In fact, we find that Alexander Gordon de Menthon took his grandmother's name of Wolfe after her sad passing, which coincided with his decision to become a serious artist. Wolfe also shares a similar story to that of Nell Bryden, in that he was able to finance his career through the sale of a family heirloom. Whilst Nell managed to auction off an original Milton Avery painting for $300,000, which helped kick start her career, Wolfe too had something of value to trade, a signed Rembrandt print. Trading art for art has a certain nobility about it but like Bryden, their respective successes depend more on the raw talent they were born with and both seem to have bundles of it. 

With the newly acquired home studio set up, MORNING BRINGS A FLOOD comes along and encompasses all those early influences from Captain Beefheart to Joni Mitchell, the Velvet Underground to Curtis Mayfield, all in a frenzy of creativity. The songs on the album range in style from the Neil Young influenced Lazybones, with its heavy bass, acoustic guitar and harmonica backdrop, not unlike anything from Harvest-era Young, to the Drake influenced Till Your Ship Comes In, with Wolfe's distinctively clear and crisp finger picked guitar and orchestral arrangement that easily compares to that of Robert Kirby's. 

Carefully packaged in a sleeve made up of Shaan Syed's atmospheric paintings, Wolfe has created a rich soundscape that is often dreamy, sometimes intense and occasionally whimsical, the delightfully carnival-esque Teabags and Ashtrays for example. Movement comes across immediately as the love child of a union between Jeff Buckley and The Beatles, for the most part a thunderous explosion of sound with a delightful coda of mid-period fabs vocal ingenuity. Song For the Dead may already be familiar to fans of celebrity chefs, Alan Davies or just BBC comedies as it is used as the theme to Whites, the new and currently running BBC sitcom.

Closing with the plaintive Stuck Under September, the album is wrapped up with Alexander Wolfe presumably resting assured that he has delivered a veritable humdinger of a debut.     

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky