If asked to summarise the themes of songs by The Lost Trades with a song, I believe I’d pick the classic Americana folk song “Keep on the Sunny Side.” Popularised by The Carter Family in the mid-twenties, it’s the humble yet effective mandate to retain optimism whilst everything thrown at you has the potential to drive you to submit to misery.….
The Lost Trades describe their forthcoming album Petrichor “with a slightly darker sound and themes including mourning, escape and starting afresh,” which while true, it never drowns itself in melancholy, least perhaps not till the finale, rather is uplifting on the soul, refreshing; the therapeutic equivalent of a nice warm bath, perhaps in candlelight.
It’s been just short of two years since the debut album The Bird, The Book, and The Barrel, and our beloved vocal harmony trio have pre-released four singles from this album, each one leaving us hanging out to dry with anticipation for this second album. 10th March is the date to unpeg yourself from the washing line, pre-orders are already being taken, and I’ll let you into a secret, which might be obvious to fans; you will not be disappointed.
Last time I spoke with Phil Cooper about the upcoming album, at Bradford Roots Music Festival, we spoke of the delicate balance of the follow-up, on teasing with a precise number of pre-singles but not overdoing it, and other common pitfalls such as exhausting your creative output on the debut with fan pressure to supplement it. Phil was ever-positive, explaining alongside fresh ideas they also had several indistinct drafts left from the first album, they’d returned to and revised. Unlike those lesser, “cashing-in” Pink Floyd albums of rejected offcuts off the more memorable albums, if the songs here were only fragments of ideas at the time of recording the debut, they’ve been overhauled with perfection, and Petrichor is undoubtedly the better album of the two. This equates to one main point I’d like to make; The Lost Trades are the fine wine, perpetually improving with age.
And anyway, four singles are reasonable, as this album weighs in at a value-for-money twelve tunes strong, and strong they most certainly are. There’s not even the one dodgy one, like The Girl is Mine on Jacko’s Thriller!
In reviewing these teaser singles I’ve been adamant throughout, the unification of the harmonies is now so intricate, so refined, even to have known the trio as individual performers in their own right prior to forming the Lost Trades, they merge now as one unit. Many have one take the lead, but the concord is paramount, the accompany of the other two enhances, whichever way around, like silk on flesh.
Though this is key to why this betters the previous album, the quality of production and reasoned flow of the tracks sprinkles it with magic. This optimistic “Keep on the Sunny Side,” comparison is no more prevalent than in the sixth tune, Under The Hornbeam, in which Tammy leads on this delightfully upbeat ditty, while it reminded me of her earlier days of singing The Jungle Book’s I’m the King of the Swingers, it’s obviously far from being puerile, but in comparison with the other songs, it remains the perkiest!
Undecided on the opening track to the debut, in which they acapella an introductory prose of the concept of the Trades, and it comes across rather quirky, there’s no messing around with Petrichor, diving straight in with a taste of the sublime you can expect throughout the album. Old Man of The Sea, the single from last November bears all the hallmarks of the direction the Trades are heading. Concentrated in the raconteur style of Jamie Hawkins, who takes lead on this marine-themed expressive shanty-type ballad to Hemingway’s most unlucky character, Santiago. You might think of “Wait for my Boat to Come in,” from the debut, but the forlorn and pensive impression is even stronger here.
If this leaves you tingling with anticipation of what’s to come, September’s single Keep My Feet Dry follows, and this is just mega-bliss! Reminding me at the time of Roger McGuinn’s “Ballad of Easy Rider,” with its river metaphor for a missing you theme, it drifts, a thing of beauty, uplifting, with a chorus immediately sing-a-long; every element fits together perfectly on this one.
Time for Phil to take lead, and this joyful sound, Atlas is an exclusive, with thoughtful prose, a personal reflection of carrying the heavens on one’s shoulders, rather than the Titans’ revolt against the gods! The last single pre-released, Long Since Gone comes next, and is a grower which sneaks up on you, and, with a humble narrative of bereavement and anguish, it loiters while you’re dangling off a Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Returning to the joyful, the springtime first single Daffodils lifts the soul, and with this gorgeous retrospective banjo riff and vocal harmonies of the Carter Family, on its release I gave its technical perfection comparison to the timelessness of Will the Circle be Unbroken together with the more enriching mood of Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me.
Six tunes in and you are as immersed as the rocks a waterfall trickle over. I’ll give no more massive spoilers, for the following songs are new, and all wonderful. Fireflies is drifty, Little Blackbird is enchantingly upbeat, Best Foot Forward is a return journey of thoughtful prose. The title track follows, the aroma of rain after a sunny spell is the textbook interpretation of The Lost Trades in general, as well as this emotive beauty, so is such an apt album title, the song simply enlightens the gist.
Two more songs complete the healthy package, This Dark Forest is at it says on the tin, an emotive autumn ride, perhaps embracing their own description of being “a slightly darker sound.” Valhalla varnishes the album off with distant drumbeat, this haunting acapella holds an ancestral disposition, a haunting finale to the kind of album which will leave you with nought else to listen to next, favouring you might as well just play it again!
The Lost Trades are going from strength to strength, this authorises the detail. You. Are. In. For. A. Treat; but I gather you could’ve guessed this much by yourself; I’m just confirming it!
The album will be supported by a 2 month tour taking in much of the UK.
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