Littlemen is a Wiltshire-based, UK Americana collective which performs the varied and thought-provoking songs of the band’s mainstay, Nick Allen. It’s A Beautiful Thing is the band’s second album offering and follows their 2016 release Long Road Home.
Release Date: 20th March 2020
Label: Littlemen Recordings
Formats: CD / DL
Since that first album, the band has had an extensive personnel reshuffle. The current lineup is: Nick Allen on vocals, joined by Rob Brian on drums and percussion, Guy Townley on guitars and Tyler Spicer on bass. On It’s a Beautiful Thing, the band’s core lineup is extensively augmented by numerous other musicians, notably Craig Crofton, who plays some wonderful saxophone on the album’s opening track, Girl With the Red Blouse; Jo Nye on backing vocals and Keith Holmes, who makes an outstanding contribution on lead guitar and organ on Front Page News, which is perhaps my favourite track on the album.
It’s A Beautiful Thing is an interesting album. It’s entertaining, occasionally challenging and draws on a number of clearly detectable influences, including (at least to my ear…) Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, Gram Parsons and Bruce Springsteen. The theme is Americana and the sound is typically driven by chugging rhythm guitars which provide a solid base for some sublime pedal steel embellishments and some soaring lead guitar solos. The most notable aspect of the songs is Nick’s lyrics and the varied subject matter chosen.
It is probably worth explaining, at this juncture, that, some years ago, Nick was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident which has left him wheelchair-bound and the impact of his situation both upon himself and upon his loved ones. It provides the topic for a couple of the more poignant songs on the album, Walking and Obstacles.
The album also includes songs which deal with subjects as diverse as a relationship sundered by the erection of the Berlin Wall (Feel The Heat), first love (Girl With the Red Blouse), lost love (Moving On), female objectification (Front Page News) and the relationship between cats and their human companions (Cat Song).
The album’s outstanding tracks include the aforementioned Walking, which contains the killer line, “I pray that God could take me if you ever walk again,” which Nick attributes to a phrase used by his mother in the wake of his accident and which surely strikes a chord with any parent. For The First Time, a two-step waltz which strongly reminds me of Neil Young’s The Old Country Waltz, Feel The Heat, which features some lovely bouzouki played by Guy Townley, and Twist of Fate, the most overtly acoustic song on the album with some beautiful violin and cello backing from Beth Porter. Nick’s voice cracks a la Gram Parsons as he reaches for the highest notes.
But, as I’ve already suggested, my personal favourite of the album’s tracks is Front Page News, a song which tackles the necessary and highly topical subject of female objectification by the UK (and world’s) media. On this track, the band is joined by Jo Nye, Keith Holmes and Jamie Thyer to deliver a full band sound. Lyrically and instrumentally, Front Page News sounds like a lost track from a classic Warren Zevon collection!
Cat Song deserves recognition as, perhaps, the oddest song on the album. The track starts with a ‘purring’ noise and a bass riff simulates the movements of a prowling cat; the observations made within the lyrics will resonate strongly with any cat lovers (as they did with me) but the heavy riffing which provides the backing to the song may seem a little incongruous. This song is, perhaps, a feline riposte to Loudon Wainwright’s Be Careful There’s A Baby In The House….
The band are planning gigs around the UK during the coming Spring and Summer – look out for them.
Here’s Front Page News from the album: