Album Review

Paul Dutton – Parallel Spark: Album Review

Enjoyable collection of artful seventies-flavoured rock from Paul Dutton.

Release Date:  25th June 2021

Label: Self Release

Formats: CD / Digital / Vinyl

This one’s a lot of fun!  New Jersey-based Paul Dutton has come up with the goods with his debut solo album, Parallel Spark, a collection that brings together many of the strands of classic seventies rock and relaunches them with a solid 21st century twist.  Parallel Spark is an excellent album, packed with clean, free-sounding, no-frills rock music, waving its seventies influences proudly aloft.

There’s quite a variety of sounds on offer here, ranging from the psych/folk of debut single Collective, through the Steve Stills – flavoured Twelve Years, taking in the clean rock of Argus-era Wishbone Ash, before getting down and dirty with raucous rockers like the latest single Pantheon.  Parallel Spark is quite an album!

Paul Dutton may be a new name to many At The Barrier regulars – certainly to those resident on these eastern shores of the Atlantic.  He’s a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who also plays in the Jersey Shore-based 4-piece outfit Spirit Fox, along with his brother Michael.  He’s recently returned to his home city of New Jersey, determined to make music a part of his everyday life, after a 12-year sojourn in California.  He’s now a member of the team at Home Music Academy, a progressive school of music in New Jersey, where he specializes in providing tuition on guitar and bass, and the credentials that qualified him for that particular role are etched indelibly into the grooves of Parallel Spark, to be admired and enjoyed.

Paul sings and plays just about everything on Parallel Spark, and also oversaw the recording and engineering, but forget any preconceptions you might have about home-made albums.  This isn’t any kind of endearingly amateur effort – the sound achieved throughout the album is rich, lush and solid and the production does great credit to the melodic compositions.

Parallel Spark gets off to a blinding start with the Spring 2020 single, Walls of Light and the jagged guitar intro gets the listener’s attention from the word go, and  Paul takes an early opportunity to showcase his guitar prowess.  His style is highly versatile – he can riff, solo, provide subtle accompaniment or, as is the case here, utterly bemuse, in the same way that Richard Thompson can.  An excellent opener that gives clear notice of the treats to come!

The album’s title track combines folky, acoustic verses and dreamlike vocals with heavy, take-no-prisoners chorus sections – to splendid effect – whilst the excellent Long Lasting provides the album’s first taste of that clean Wishbone Ash sound.  Chiming guitars, underpinned by solid bass and a dependable drumbeat provide a toned-down backing for the ethereal Lover’s Dream, before the amps get turned up to eleven on Pantheon, the album’s latest single (released in February 2021) and probably the most outright rocker on the album.

Perhaps my two favourite tracks are Bitter Hellish Truth,  a slow(ish) number, laced with clean-sounding guitars and wonderful harmony vocals which, once again, capture and bottle that Wishbone Ash sound, and the outstanding Collective, a truly beautiful slice of psych-folk, pepped up by lashings of sublime wha-wha guitar.

The thrusting, immediate, Twelve Years, a song that celebrates the ending to that 12-year Californian exile, with its attendant “worldly cares and woes” is another cracker.  The upfront acoustic guitars, nice vocal harmonies and electric guitar embellishments all come together nicely, with a result that sounds uncannily like a lost track from Steve Stills’ first solo album.  It’s a fine ending to a fine album.

Watch the Official video to Walls of Light, a track from the album, here:

Paul Dutton: Website / YouTube / Bandcamp / Soundcloud

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