“Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” – Jean Paul
“Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.” – Francesco Guicciardini
There are two things that are the foundations of my life and they are music and friends. I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without either. To me music is not just something you listen to, it is an essential part of what makes me tick and what makes me want to get out of bed in a morning. I only became a music writer because I wanted more people to feel the way I did about certain notes, songs and albums that have become essential listening in my life. Music is what fills those unseen gaps in my universe and makes it complete.
We all need friends in our life and I have been blessed to know some wonderful people and call them friends. Since I started getting involved with music my list of friends has grown immensely and I don’t mean just those people who I’ve never met on Facebook. I have had the pleasure of meeting many musicians and supporters in the flesh and am proud to call them true friends now.
One of the first musicians I met through my reviews and interviews was the vocalist Marc Atkinson, also known as the voice of Riversea. I first met Marc in March of 2014 when he was performing his solo acoustic show in Whitby and where I interviewed him for Lady Obscure Music Magazine and have been firm friends ever since.
Therefore it was a no-brainer when Marc asked me if I would write an early review of his new solo release ‘Homegrown’, in fact I consider it an honour that he came to me first.
Marc Atkinson is a solo acoustic singer/songwriter. He is also ‘The Voice’ of Riversea and has previously sung with Nine Stones Close, Gabriel, Frontier and Expressions, as well as lending his vocals to the Mandalaband project. He continues to gig heavily in the North of England playing his one man, ‘human juke box’ acoustic shows.
‘Homegrown’ is Marc’s fifth solo album and, along with the help from his partner Tamsin, daughter Enya, friends Andy ‘Rob’ Swann, Bob Fleming, Jack Burge and Brendan Eyre who all contributed performances on the album, it was finally finished in October 2016 and will be released on the the 21st of November 2016. Alongside Brendan Eyre and Dave Clements, Marc is currently working on the 2nd Riversea album, entitled ‘The Tide’, which is due for release in spring 2017.
Marc has written an intro for the CD booklet and, so as not to spoil it for those who have ordered the new album, I have just taken the first paragraph from it:
“As you may have guessed from the album title, this is a ‘home made’ album. It’s songwriting in its most ‘basic’ form. It could almost be called a ‘demo album’, I think…And that was the concept for it right from the beginning. In an alternative universe maybe this album exists produced by a ‘top’ producer, in a hi-tech studio with amazing musicians lifting the songs to new heights with their ear for detail and unique talents. This, obviously, is not that album. This as as ‘Home Grown’ as they come… “
“Take all these melodies away, Free them from my soul, They’ve been haunting me for days, It’s good to let them go…”
The opening track A Portrait immediately gets you into the soul of this great singer/songwriter. The music is gentle and whimsical and leaves you feeling touched by a world of calmness and peace. Marc’s voice is full of pathos and emotion and leaves you waiting upon every syllable of every word as it washes over you with a spiritual grace. There is a touch of folk to the song with the delicate strings that hover in the background, a beautiful start to the album that leaves you wanting to hear more.
“Take all of the dreams that you’ve had, Make them come true right before your eyes, take all that sorrow away, It’s a brand new day…”
The beautifully harmonised choral opening to Raise Your Voice gives way to an upbeat track driven on by the acoustic guitar and the uplifting vocals. This is a track full of joie de vivre and has a feel-good factor that just leaves you on a high. The catchy chorus has you singing along with gusto and on a spiritual high. This is definitely a song that will have a live gathering singing and clapping along to every note and left me with a big smile on my face.
‘When days are like shattering glass, They’re so fragile they don’t last, It’s like chasing waterfalls…”
I know Marc is a very spiritual person and Just Between God And Me could be his own personal thoughts on the events that are happening around the world as we speak, the hardships and trials and tribulations of those who aren’t in a position to help themselves. It’s a sober, solemn and thoughtful song that asks some pretty important questions. The vocals are full of heartfelt sentiment and really struck a chord with me, balanced against the sparse instrumentation as they are. The harmonised backing voices give a sense of wisdom to the track and you are left looking up at the stars and wondering whether there is any judgement to be had in the heavens.
“Remember days that used to be, with one big happy family alive, Driving through the countryside, With your Dad by your side tonight…”
Hands Of Time is a very poignant track dedicated to the life of Marc’s long term partner Tamsin’s father and is a beautifully written and touching tribute. It’s about the bitter sweetness of happy memories tinged with the sadness of lost loved ones. The wistful music, piano and violin especially, leave you in a bit of a melancholic mood, the memories will be there forever but you can’t turn back the hands of time. An emotional, moving song where Marc’s vocals really stand out and one that, ultimately, leaves you in a reflective mood thinking of the joy and pain that the past can bring.
“Daddy will you sing for me, Daddy will you sing with me, Riding through the streets with my little girl, Pedals going round as her hair unfurls…”
A lovely song written for Marc and Tammy’s daughter Enya and one that sees her appear on backing vocals, My Little Girl is a touching little ditty that is full of love and devotion and you can hear it in the timbre of Marc’s voice as he delivers this ode to his ‘little girl’. The gentle music has a cathartic feel to it and imbues this track with a simple grace and tenderness. Marc’s voice is what inspires Enya to sing and this song is as much a thankyou to him as it is dedicated to her.
“In or out, What the hell’s it all about?, Black or white, Why do we find the need to fight…”
When The English Rose is, in essence, a protest song about Brexit, racism and everything that is rocking our country at the moment. Because it comes from a singer/songwriter it has none of the angst that a punk band or hardliner like Billy Bragg would give it but it is because of that fact that it perhaps hits home a bit harder. An edgy riff from Marc’s guitar and a touch of anger in his voice give vent to his true feelings and the timeless question to which none of us seem to have the answer, “Surely we are stronger together, Surely it’s ‘Divided We Fall’…”
“Caught inside a landslide, In our topsy-turvy world, somewhere in-between us, We’re screaming to be heard…”
Still In Love With You is just under three minutes of delicate charm and beauty. Marc sings of a love lost and the found again and the pain and then joy that ensues. The exquisite music and ethereal timbre of the vocals just give the whole song a feeling of dignity and finesse with a profound honesty at its heart.
“It was 33 years ago, When I first put the words in a song, My friends said just give it a go, And soon they were singing along..”
A journey through Marc’s career to date with subtle hints in the radio style introduction (River sea’s Out Of An Ancient World anyone?), Whatever Happened… is wistful and nostalgic with the wispy tendrils of the music subtly insinuating themselves into your thoughts and Marc’s voice dictating his move from being in a band to a solo career and back again. It is actually a very moving song and the music has a real haunting capacity to it, plaintive and thoughtful which is only enhanced by the fantastic vocals.
“Caught in the spotlight, The Road always ahead, I drive by moonlight, To the comfort of our bed…”
A song about the endless hours Marc spends on the road touring the North of England to play his acoustic shows and how all he ever looks forward to is going home to his partner, Go is a mesmerising track full of the warmth of the affection that he has for Tammy. The music starts quite laid back, tender and mellow, the bass really coming to the fore and Marc, once again, delivers an impassioned vocal performance full of subtle highs and lows. In duet with the exquisitely fragile piano, you can almost imagine him driving back to Cumbria in the early hours of the morning. The understated guitar solo and poignancy of the piano that close the track are utterly delightful.
“Talking to myself never felt so real before, ‘Cos everything I say you seem to ignore…”
A song about relationships and the difficulty of communicating, Am I Getting Through has a nervous energy to it from the off. Marc’s voice has an urgency and seriousness to it that is matched by the tempo of the music and the guitar riff. When I listen to this song I can envision him sat on his stool singing to the audience at one of his shows, it has that immediacy to it. There is a pressing pace to the song, an imperative insistence and, ultimately, it turns a negative into a positive and changes fractious feelings into hope for the future, a message we could all do with following, whether it was meant to be subliminal or not.
“When each new day greets me, Your the first soul I see, Lying there next to me, In harmony…”
Make no bones about this song, it is a love song from Marc to Tammy and you almost feel churlish for invading into their personal space. A pared back folk-infused piece of music, beauty lies deep in the heart of this captivating track, the graceful guitar and hushed tones of the vocals give it an ethereal grace and you are held transfixed by its sheer grace.
“Lay your head on me, Hold my hand in unity, Rest in me and I’ll rest in you, One love between the two, So lay your head on me…”
Another song written from his heart for the love of his life, Marc really gets my heartstrings going and a tear in my eye with the sheer emotive finesse, charm and power of Lay Your Head On Me. It brings back all the wonderful memories of the times we spend together in a relationship. Love is a powerful emotion when put into music and here it takes your heart and lifts it up, soaring to the heavens on a wave of tender music and the utterly beguiling vocals of Marc Atkinson. The graceful guitar solo is delightfully mesmerising and you are left in a place of utter peace and calm and one from which you never want to leave.
“All that I dreamed of came true, The first time I ever saw you…”
Plucking at those heartstrings again, Eternally bewitches and charms with its heavenly charm and its sublime grace. The guitar and vocals combine to give the song a humble and yet exquisite feel and one which guides though any rough waters to a sheltered bay of calm serenity. There is a well of love, affection and devotion deep inside this talented musician and Marc lets it flood out on these last three tracks leaving you in doubt of where his inspiration comes from.
“Don’t be looking back on yesterdays, They’ve been and gone their separate ways, Keep looking forward with that gaze, It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright…”
There’s a line in This Is The Future that goes ‘Hear the melody of life, Take it hold it deep inside..’ and that, to me, is what music is all about, it is the melody of life and no more so than in this collection of songs. Another great upbeat song that tells us not to look back but to keep staring forward, we can’t unmake what has gone before but we can decide our own destiny. The uplifting music and Marc’s optimistic and encouraging vocals enforce that mantra and you find yourself agreeing with him wholeheartedly. A song of hope and promise that in a year of disappointments for me, really matches my mood now I, myself, have found that person whose arms I can run into.
“When I need somewhere to go, There’s a little place I know, And best of all it’s homegrown…”
This endearing album closes with the fiercely dignified title track Home Grown. This speaks of Marc’s home studio, a ‘Little box in which we could create sounds to break the silence.” It’s almost a short biopic of the making of the album and is delivered to us in a wonderfully cultured fashion with the acoustic guitar and piano providing the soundtrack over which Marc’s distinctive and refined vocal provides the narrative. There’s no rush to the telling of this musical tale, let the world fly past while the music that can last a lifetime is crafted with loving care, forever to stand testament to the heart and soul of this wonderful musician.
To me, this is what makes writing about music worth every single minute I take. I have been involved in this long musical journey in some small way from start to finish and when you hear the finished article, it is almost like welcoming a newborn into the world. Marc Atkinson will have agonised about every single word and note on this album and to my ears it has been worth every single second he has taken. This is music that takes over your mind and soul and which you can relate to on a very personal level. Fifteen songs that are extremely personal to this gracious man and we should be glad that he has released them for us to enjoy. A great album and one that I have no doubt is the complete pinnacle of Marc’s solo career to date, I am extremely proud to be able call him a friend.
Released 21st November 2016