Of Service in Rosemary Lane is UK ex-pat David Nigel Lloyd’s latest collection in a recording career reaching back twenty-plus years. He’s traveled far and wide during the last few decades and his skills have expanded as well, but his core sound and abiding musical influences remain much the same as before. Of Service in Rosemary Lane honors those influences in more than a single way as the title, overall approach, and the title song of this work are all deeply influenced or else cover guitar great Bert Jansch. Another folk songwriter who helped steer Lloyd in his eventual creative direction is Robin Williamson and his presence, less overt than his predecessor, has a huge impact on the album’s development.
“Sweet Nothingness Ask Not” throws down an early poetic gauntlet. His songwriting for this release embraces tried and true folk song strengths listeners will recognize straight away and note how it avoids cliché. The album’s first track has a more theatrical pace than many of the remaining nine songs, the melodic elements aren’t as free flowing as elsewhere during the collection,
“And Keep Our Foe at Bay” will be one of the album’s zeniths for many listeners. Rightly so. Lloyd serves listeners with a gripping tale full of life’s furies and we’re willing to stick with it all the way because there isn’t a single line you can see through. Ornamental lyrics aren’t something you will find much of in Lloyd’s songs. Another reason recurs over the course of this album and its Lloyd’s capacity for inventive and engaging melodies. We’ve heard many of the guitar’s tricks over the decades from a wealth of gifted players, acoustic and electric, so it’s no small clue that we’re in the presence of musical talent when the guitar playing sounds fresh – not because of what he plays, but how he plays it.
The trio of the album’s title song, a cover of Bert Jansch’s cover, “Blues for a Blue Movie”, and “The Streets Are Wet with Tears, Baby” will be the stretch countless listeners point to as the album’s highest peaks. The title song is especially evocative without ever laying its effects on too think while its predecessor “Blues for a Blue Movie” is one of the album’s most fully-realized compositions. The last of the three tracks, “The Streets Are Wet with Tears, Baby”, remarkably raises the stakes and marries a simple yet often hypnotic guitar arrangement to the album’s best lyrics.
The shifting texture and pastoral imagery of “A Wild Mountain Time” end the album on the right note. It underlines his fidelity to tradition while still making it clear that taking risks where appropriate is part of the order of the day for David Nigel Lloyd. It always has been. There’s nothing about these ten songs that suggest the musician, poet, and singer will ever coast rather than take on his muse, no questions asked, and following wherever she leads. Of Service in Rosemary Lane makes it clear we should follow as well.
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