More simple explanations of life from Bridport’s Peter James Millson.
Release Date: 18th June 2021
Label: Reveal Records
Formats: CD / Digital
Regular At The Barrier readers may well recall Peter James Millson. The Bridport-based singer/songwriter and sometime photographer (he worked for The Guardian for five years and he’s got six photographic exhibits in the National Portrait Gallery…!) In February, we reviewed his compilation album, Selected Works, and gave advance notice to expect an album of new material sometime during summer 2021. That album’s here, it’s called The Accidental, and it’s a collection of quite beautiful songs.
The Accidental came about in a rather unusual way, as Peter explains: “The idea was to spend  producing other people, playing on and mixing other people’s music: I’d had enough of writing and performing. I loved nothing better than finding rogue resonant frequencies in bad acoustic guitar recordings. So that’s what I did. I produced three records for artist friends, mixed various tracks for people, and an old school friend got in touch because he needed some loud guitar on his new record, so I did that too.
I was very comfortable with how things seemed to bounce from one to another.
Only, in November, I looked around and found that I’d inexplicably and surreptitiously written and recorded seven new songs. I was even more surprised to find another four ideas waiting in notebooks. So I shoved it all down on ‘tape’ and stood looking at it
I asked Tom Rose at Reveal Records if he would help me shuffle songs into line. He said he’d like the album for his label. I’ve called it The Accidental.”
For songs that came into existence so serendipitously, there’s some absorbing stuff on The Accidental. As we’ve come to expect from a Peter James Millson album, the tunes are pleasant and instantly likeable, with a leaning towards contemporary folk or soft rock and the lyrics are mature, well-considered and deal with such permanently fascinating subjects as the reality and the transience of our existence. After listening to the eleven songs that constitute The Accidental, I felt like the meaning of my life had been spelled out by someone who really knows…!
A couple of the songs, opening track Here and the excellent In The Real World were previewed on February’s compilation album, but the rest of the songs are brand new. The structure and delivery of many of the songs remind me strongly of Iain Matthews/Southern Comfort – and that’s a pretty good pattern to follow – certainly in my view!
Here, the album’s opener, is a piano ballad that explores the interesting and reassuring concept of being witness to one’s own time spent on this earth. It’s a pleasant song that oozes contentment. Sun Goes Down, the first of the album’s driving soft rock excursions, looks at how hope becomes less easy to hang on to after dark, but grows once more as the sun rises, and the lighter, poppier, It comes and Goes deals with the unprompted arrival and departure of creative inspiration.
In The Real World is a particular favourite. In my review of the Selected Works compilation, I described the song as “…a happy, instantly likeable, chugging soft rocker” and that’s a description I feel I can stand by. The song’s lyrics take a swipe at the idea that (in particular) artists and daydreamers spend their time outside the “real” world, and make the point that, if we live it, it’s real. And the song is illuminated by some wonderful electric guitar work.
Peter describes a walk he took with his youngest son, one warm September day, in Summer in September, a pastorally evocative song and another of my favourites. Find Our Way is a clean, pulsing rocker with jangly, happy guitars, some nice sax embellishments and keyboard effects, and a marvelously chilled playout passage, whilst Like a Rain is quiet and intimate.
Acoustic and electric guitars combine over soft, understated, percussion for the simmering, intense, No Way to Live, before things take an almost funky turn for Magpie’s Eye, with a solid bass line providing the foundation for “Chic-like” guitar fills and some tasteful string effects and a lyric that deals, this time, with the old artist’s trick of launching a creative endeavour by “borrowing” an idea from someone else.
Peter wrote the splendid Autumn Leaves on the day that his mother told him that his grandma had died. It’s a beautiful song that compares our transient existence to the decay and fall of autumn leaves, sung to a contemplative backing of fingerpicked acoustic guitar. Album closer, Leading Me Somewhere, takes a final look at the reality and transient nature of life – the album’s recurring themes – this time to a backing of bass guitar and home-made percussion. A quirky end to a highly listenable album.
Watch the official video for In The Real World – a favourite track from the album – here: