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Danny & The Champions of The World – Hearts & Arrows

Danny & The Champions of the World, Hearts & Arrows

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THREE albums in and Danny Wilson has rung the changes for The Champions of the World. The line-up, for instance, has evolved, as well as the instrumentation.

Where the original line-up were originally a loose and chaotic collective of like-minded souls – so loose and so chaotic that, at any given gig or session, you couldn’t accurately predict who exactly would be performing alongside Wilson – this new incarnation of the group is a proper rock ’n’ roll band, wholly committed to being the Champs.

The folk sound more usually synonymous with them, meanwhile, has also been upgraded to rock, with the latest album channelling the likes of Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen more than the ‘new folk’ of the Nick Drake wannabes (which Wilson claims he has become bored with).

The result is arguably the band’s best work to date. Steeped in classic values, it’s a wholesome slice of Americana that evokes the memory of those who helped to inspire it, while putting forward some classics of its own.

The rock vibe is welcome and dominant, although there are still moments when Wilson drops in some trademark heartbreakers, ballads and laments… such as the world weary, stripped back and decidedly Dylan-esque Too Tough To Cry. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a croaky vocal, Wilson candidly reveals: “I’m not too proud to cry.”

It’s a nice interlude from some of the more rockier moments and evidence of a band that seems to be at comfort with itself and its identity.

Other highlights include Brothers In The Night, an unashamedly Springsteen moment that even drops in an extended sax solo. It probably shouldn’t work as well as it does, but the reflections contained within the lyrics (“we thought we were The Beastie Boys…”) bring a smile to the face, while the ‘60s-leaning guitar riffs lend it an upbeat quality that’s hugely endearing.

Colonel And The King, meanwhile, contains a terrific central riff and some great reflections on the golden era of Elvis Presley. It also carries more of a whiff of Mellencamp.

Album opener Ghosts In The Wire sets the template, dropping an urgent drum beat and some classic rock riffs before opening up into a deeply melodic chorus and invoking the spirit of Running Down A Dream-era Petty. Likewise, Heart & Arrow, perhaps even more so.

There’s a touch of the Yardbirds about the slick, breezy riffs of another favourite, Every Beat of My Heart, which vocally trades on Petty, while On The Street is just a truly great record and arguably the pick of the album (boasting a fiery central riff and a terrific chorus that ‘sha la la’s’ in a Van Morrison kind of way).

But in truth, this is a great album and one that has clearly benefited from Wilson’s decision to lend the band more focus, more dedication and a stronger sense of togetherness.

Download picks: Heart & Arrow, Colonel And The King, Brothers In The Night, Too Tough To Cry, Every Beat of My Heart, On The Street

Track listing:

  1. Ghosts In The Wire
  2. Heart & Arrow
  3. Soul In The City
  4. Colonel And The King
  5. Brothers In The Night
  6. Too Tough To Cry
  7. Every Beat of My Heart
  8. Can’t Hold Back
  9. On The Street
  10. You Don’t Know (My Heart Is In The Right Place)
  11. Walk With Me