Judge Clark Douglas wishes he had friends who wanted to sing his songs.
"I'm ready for a good defining moment, let me have at it."
I have to confess, before receiving this CD/DVD combo I was completely, absolutely unfamiliar with the work of David Newbould. I initially suspected that this was for the usual reason I'm not familiar with someone: because my knowledge of the world of modern popular music is about as comprehensive as a turtle's knowledge of quantum physics. But no, it would seem that Mr. Newbould is a man still attempting to make a name for himself in the world of music, as a quick check of the World Wide Web revealed that he has no Wikipedia page and no customer reviews on the Amazon pages featuring his albums. What he does have is a new CD/DVD set entitled David Newbould and Friends: Long Way Home Live, which is an engaging introduction to a reasonably talented musician.
Billing himself as a cross between Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, Newbould turns in an hour-long set of appealingly folksy pop/rock music. I like Buckley and love Wainwright, and it must be said that Newbould is certainly a long way from hitting the heights of either, but he's certainly a man with potential. The DVD opens with the mildly infectious "Goldmines," a solid opening tune that flirts with some strong hooks but never quite finds them. You sense it's just a notch shy of being a really strong number. The slightly more lively "Salvation" may not be terribly memorable musically, but the energetic performance compensates for that. I particularly liked the western-tinged "Soul is Inflamed," which drips with a rugged sense of angst and sets a nice mood.
Next up is "It Can Always Be Worse," one of my favorite tunes on the set. The minor-key melody is an exceptionally involving one, with a strong arrangement reminiscent of Madman Across the Water-era Elton John. There's also a shade of Nick Cave to be heard at times, though Newbould never veers quite so far outside the mainstream pop/rock sound. "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do" is another appealing tune, a cheerful concoction of bluegrass-influenced fun that gives the band members plenty of time to show off their gifts in solo turns. I just love the ragtime piano elements that turn up in this number. "Big Red Sun" (the title track from Newbould's previous album) is a melancholic tune about the sunrise in Austin, which threatens to become pretentious but never quite does. Even so, it's a fairly dull number.
"Put the Brakes on Us" finds Newbould in fairly standard-issue singer/songwriter mode, a modestly attractive break-up number that seems one of the more likely candidates for airplay if not for my MP3 player playlist. Things remain low-key in "Dakota," which is slightly reminiscent of Springsteen at his most restrained (though again, not quite hitting the general standard that implies). The female vocalists that accompany Newbould on the number add immeasurably to the song; creating wistful harmonies that give the song a sense of feeling. "Old Friend" is yet another very slow number, which isn't bad but just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: the concert begins to feel like a naptime symphony.
I like the amiable "Something to Lose," which is pretty generic lyrically but which has a rather pleasant melody to hang onto. "See You on the Other Side" is a rather rambling ballad that is in need of focus, though it's perfectly tolerable. Things conclude with "Come What May," an intimate and touching finish to the concert.
The CD included in the set has a very similar set list:
The DVD transfer is just fine, conveying the image with warmth and relative clarity. The image is a tad soft from time to time, and black crush is a bit of an issue, but otherwise the concert looks fine. Audio is more problematic, as the moments when Newbould speaks between songs are much, much, much too loud. You'll be forced to adjust the volume, for sure. The concert itself gets a mediocre mix, as the musical elements tend to get a bit mushy and indistinct at times. Extras include a brief interview with Newbould in which he provides his bio and a couple of bonus tracks.
Despite a handful of choice cuts, David Newbould doesn't quite manage to make his mark with this set. The concert is disappointingly top-heavy, with a colorful batch of tunes early on eventually giving way to a never-ending tide of low-key sameness. Newbould certainly has some potential, though. Let's hope he cultivates it in the years to come.
Guilty, though I'll definite be giving repeat spins to two or three of the
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