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"I'm Not Scared" by Euan Blackman

Review

I hoped that you enjoyed the most recent Euan Blackman single "HIGHHIGHHIGH" which we reviewed here (it's also to be found on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Seven')?

Well here he is back today with its follow up, "I'm Not Scared" featuring backing vocals from  rising folk artist Cooza and from Livia.

One of those wry songs whose music belies its message creating an instant tension which adds to its power, the song sounds a jaunty pop one: certainly not from the rootsier end of folk, but if you listen to what Euan is singing about, you get fear (despite the brave face of the title & the refrain) and discomfort as it's actually about poor housing conditions where not only do you lack the homely comforts & security you need, but your anxiety conjures up ghosts to act as metaphors for your attempts to manage living in such an environment.

I do appreciate it when artists use this sort of paradoxical approach: it's a little bit subversive, adds a sense of depth to their creativity & makes the audience work that little bit harder to unpack the full gist of the song.

It also adds a little humour to what otherwise would need to be a rather downbeat song & I think that's no bad thing, especially if Euan wants to build an audience, as long as he doesn't trivialise the subject, which I don't think he does as it gives off an aroma of sympathy & sense of trying to process negative emotions and experiences without being crushed by hopelessness.

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"HIGHHIGHHIGH" by Euan Blackman

Review

Just over a month since we told you about his "Sinking" single, Euan Blackman will be releasing his third one "HIGHHIGHHIGH" tomorrow (Friday). I'm not sure whether it will eventually join its predecessor on an eventual EP, but at the moment I'm not sure that is too important: let's enjoy it on its own considerable merits.

As with the recent "Señorita" single from Rheo Uno, here we have a track whose creator rates it as a personal favourite, and as with that case, I think we should take note and ponder why that might be so.

In tone, the song falls somewhere between "Sinking" and its own predecessor "24 Hours 7 Days" with an ambiguous mixture of the jauntiness of the former and the more intense introspection of the latter, it took me a few plays to try to gather what mood Euan was in. I think on reflection that he seems happy, but in a very laid back and underplayed way. He seems to take solace and pleasure from the small experiences of life and I suspect as much, if not more, by "being" rather than "doing".

This sophisticated & subtle touch is greatly to his credit and well worth pursuing. If people don't quite get what you are aiming at first time, then hopefully they'll not only listen again, but feel that much more rewarded once they've delved deeper into the song and pleased with themselves for engaging with it and deriving meaning from it.

Wholly Euan's own work (though once again Charlie Braddick mixed and mastered it), the guitar part sounds like it originated in a non-standard tuning (like "Sinking") and this conveys a melody which apparently he has had for  over twelve months and which it seems he took his time to set precisely the right lyrics to.

There is a fascinating video which I imagine contains images of things with Euan himself finds uplifting and which has a lo-fi approach which echoes nicely the self deprecation and wistfulness of the song. You can check this out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX1ZMoPwNhk

Once again, it's these qualities which bring me back to what I said last time, when I detected "..a very "English" light touch on both the intensity of the lyrics and the pastorality of the music…." and I think Euan reinforces this here. The subject matter and the way he expresses himself tend to the quintessentially "English" in style. I wonder if he listened much to fellow Warwickshire artist Nick Drake as he grew up? He certainly shares some of his aesthetic as well as an approach to playing guitar.

Maybe the convergence of all these elements serve to explain his own happiness with what he's created. He certainly can feel pleased with the melodicism and how his playing delivers it. However add in lyrics he clearly spent much time and care working on (which must produce a sense of personal achievement) and that overall sense of having nailed a mood and sense of place and being, then you can understand why he might feel that this might be his track which most approaches his own vision of what he trying to achieve.

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"Sinking" by Euan Blackman

Review

On 2nd September, Euan Blackman will be releasing "Sinking", his follow up to the widely praised and popular "24 Hours 7 Days" and I gather it will feature on an EP in due course too: a method of releasing which, from the reviews I've been writing for the past couple of years, seems to be increasingly popular.

I believe that  "Sinking" predates its predecessor in terms of composition, though I suspect it was still written during the pandemic experience (which is a term which suggests the worst ever theme park ride or possibly a very twisted rock band name). However the subject matter seems very different and certainly the sound is: in fact in some respects you might even mistake it for the work of another artist altogether, though on repeated & deeper listening, the commonality does become more apparent.

For starters, although Euan originated the song with a guitar riff in a drop D tuning, the initial impression is of a piano being the dominant instrument in the arrangement, until you realise how many guitars there are actually in there & the roles which they play: both an acoustic rhythm track (the initial riff idea I assume) and subtle little flashes of electric slide. It's one of those tracks which once you get the nuances of the arrangement you derive yet more pleasure from the experience. Full marks on the arrangement (by Euan) and mix (by Charlie Braddick who also mastered the single): it's impressive how much detail they get out of relatively few instruments.

The song itself is much more jaunty in tone than "24 Hours 7 Days" and swings along (which not too many songs manage) giving an upbeat air of optimism and seems both a message to a lover and a more general one to the world of anticipating travel and general liberation (Kerouac is name checked). In this respect, you can possibly see his thinking in terms of the order of release: it's the right sequence of emotions set against the COVID19 backcloth and in all honesty the theme of "Sinking" might have seemed a little premature earlier in the year: now it seems plausible and we can rejoice for him that he can contemplate such things.

Where the two tracks do share common ground though is in the understated melodicism which runs through them both: a very "English" light touch on both the intensity of the lyrics and the pastorality of the music. The words mark him out as a 21st century writer and to some extent, despite the apparent simplicity of the arrangement, this too is contemporary in style. However the melody underneath is pretty timeless and consistent with folksong of at least the last century or more.

Where it also scores is with the evidence that Euan is no single note writer: he has breadth as well as depth & the EP no doubt will showcase this even further. Taken by itself though, "Sinking" has multiple merits: it's a charming almost self effacing number which I'm happy to sing the praises of: not to enjoy listening to it would suggest someone had a bit of a heart of stone to be honest.

In the meantime, you can presave "Sinking" via this link:

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/euanblackman/sinking

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‘24 Hours 7 Days' by Euan Blackman

Review

Fresh in from Alcester based artist Euan Blackman is his brand new release "24 Hours 7 Days": just when I imagined that the products of lockdown writing & production were coming to an end, here pops up a very fine example.

As it was recorded in his "childhood bedroom" maybe it epitomises this very curious and unexpected sub genre. As he clearly agonised over every tiny detail in its creation, that too may be an aspect of creative lives which will become in time a tale to tell younger generations. Obsession can be a very dangerous mode but there is no doubt that those sitting in solitude with no other focus than getting it Exactly Right have these past months made some extraordinary music which we never anticipated.

Unsurprisingly, the lyrical focus seems to draw a lot from the lockdown experience (which I suppose sounds like ride at a very bad theme park), yet Euan has had the wit to twist it away from some sort of pandemic self pitying towards an exploration of the sense of separation within a romantic relationship: which is much more attractive as a listening proposition as well as probably setting the song up for greater longevity of popularity. Lockdown as metaphor maybe?

The subject matter therefore occupies a similar temporal space to The Chefs' 1981 "24 Hours" classic and despite being nearly the polar opposite in terms of lyrical direction, shares something of that song's infectious bounce: in this case also hinting at an eventual optimistic outcome which is most welcome: I don't think anyone wants to hear anything too doomed at the moment.  Another artist whose work immediately came to mind the first time I heard it was John Lennon:  "24 Hours 7 Days" shares a little of the DNA of his dreamy, late Beatles acoustic songs such as "Julia" or "Across the Universe" (with finger picking reminiscent of the former). As he is a student at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, maybe that is fitting. Euan may be pretty upset by missing his beloved and being cooped up, but he seems to have a coping mechanism of pastoral mindfulness going on. This is not one of those taut, edgy lockdown paranoia fests.

Very ably aided by Olivia Mayall on backing vocals and Charlie Braddick who mixed and mastered the track, we are reminded too that in today's technological environment, working minutely on a song in your own bedroom by yourself does not automatically exclude others from the creative process nor limit you to a smaller piece of work than you envisage in your mind. I have been overwhelmed almost by how so many people I know have upskilled over the last year and a bit: thinking back to those first few fumbled livestreams on phones set at 90o through learning the basis of recording yourself to realising that you could collaborate on tracks with others anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home & integrate them into the songs as if they'd been right beside you. I am not sure that people will continue in such a vein now (and I'm sure all my friends who run professional studios would rather that they didn't) but they now have useful extra talents to deploy at need. (speaking of extra talents, the photograph of Euan is by Jack Blackman & Euan himself designed the single's artwork).

 

You can see a video of "24 Hours 7 Days" at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtSP9MlABNo

I haven't reviewed Euan's work before, so I'm glad to have a chance to put that right, though I'm not sure how many previous formal releases he has had that I might have written about. He self describes as an artist who "…crafts introspective and evergreen songs for rainy road trips with wistful gazes. There is something of the past in his music, not retrospect, but memories we all share, tales of the human condition in soft focus" and I think either that encapsulates much of "24 Hours 7 Days" or else "24 Hours 7 Days" provides excellent evidence of these qualities. Since I gather an EP is being worked on, with luck, that will give me further chances, but in the meantime, this hypnotic and beautiful song has me hooked.

In the meantime you can catch him live playing in his brother Jack's (who is certainly no stranger to the pages of "Hot Music Live') band The Beautiful Wreck at Lakefest at Eastnor in Herefordshire on August 13th and the Moseley Folk Festival on Saturday 4th September: one presumes these will not feature his own material, so I hope solo gigs will follow in time.

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