Album review: Oliver Shaw – Of Darker Plains

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Album artwork

Words by Lady Godiva

The ‘last of the English cowboys’, as his debut record title stated, is back with a new collection of songs in the same vein: soulful, stripped down, poetic, far from any trend and just retaining the essence of proper rock’n’roll songwriting. The real deal.

‘Of Darker Plains’ captures the misadventures and aphorisms of British troubadour Oliver Shaw, a performer who gets to the core of unrequited love with a very endearing vulnerability. He hits that spot with his heartfelt and tortured love songs, in an unadorned and darkly romantic manner. Those who are familiar with the last bandit Nikki Sudden might notice a spiritual and sartorial analogy between both characters. It is heartwarming to see that Sudden has a musical heir in the land of Albion. Beyond this adjudication of artistic paternity, Shaw has his own mojo and vocal range. At his most lyrical, he may remind one of Thom Yorke but he has a distinct voice signature and can go full scope, unleashing his rage or wooing the listener with tenderness. He uses his vocal organ as a proper instrument which makes his tunes sound even more fervent and sincere, either as a mystic bard or moody cowboy.

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Oliver Shaw

Oliver Shaw is a bit of an enigma, he has the aura of an old legend, yet has “only” released two records as a solo artist. He’s been cutting his teeth as a performer since his early teens. His music is the work of a mature songwriter, whether it be in the unrestrained wrath of ‘Pleasant Trees-Redone’, in the candor of ‘Touch’ or in the perspicuous jauntiness of ‘The Nothing Song’, he is able to genuinely connect with his audience and paint with his lyrics and guitar familiar emotions and scenes in people’s psyche. His box of paint is full of colours. His title track remains the most poignant on the record as it carries that raw feeling of never being able to let go of someone deep in your heart, ‘Of Darker Plains’ almost inks this around your wounded heart as a painful reminder of loss, without being corny whatsoever and with something to unravel, hitting the nail right on the head, displaying in a wry and disenchanted tune what many of us have alas, infuriatingly and in vain felt before.

One has to be quite a storyteller to be able to cram this significantly in a piece of music.
Listen to this collection of songs as an astute observation of human relationships.

Of Darker Plains is out now on limited edition vinyl and also available on Spotify and Apple Music

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