Words by Neil Wood
The frontman is strange beast; ever-sublime in his natural habitat with various band members propped behind him, only to raise a doubtful eyebrow when that solo album finally comes around and, well, it isn’t very good. And like it or not, it quite often does come around in that fashion. See, the thing is, we have grown up with the traditional ‘band’ being a charming force; a collective of cool and a gang which we so desperately want to be a part of. And when it gets to that ‘going solo’ time in their existence, the band as we knew it will perhaps never be the same again. But what happens when the frontman steps away from his gang and what we end up tasting is so much sweeter than we could ever have imagined? And you’re left thinking that this should have been what we were listening to in the first place? And you even start to wonder; could this be better than the original band in the first place?
Well that scenario is put into practice with North East based singer-songwriter (and one time frontman of good bands) Richard Smith. Having posted four years worth of ‘solo’ material online recently, Smith has treated us to a glimpse of what he got up to on his days off from frontman duty – and it is pretty special. The most recent offering is the sublime ‘Wishing Well’ with its delicate guitar and haunting viola that sit beneath tribal percussion and a vocal that breezes over the mix.
A second track titled ‘Your Ghost’ came out of the same period of song writing and is equally as brilliant. Amidst a slow burning guitar/vocal opening section, ‘Your Ghost’ develops under the sturdy percussion and pulsating bass. But the song’s greatest attribute perhaps lies in the irresistible blend of quiet to loud; as moments of subtle finger picking sweep into gigantic blasts of snare drum and gritty lead guitar.
Uploaded tracks dating back to 2008 display a variety of sound ranging from warm acoustic and melodic songs to darker tales of love and loss. Visit Richard’s Bandcamp page to download the lot. And next time your favourite band’s frontman brings out a solo record don’t be so quick to write it off. It might just be this good.