Marcus Foster - The Last House (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
BY Marcus Foster’s own admission, the songs on his new mini album, The Last House, are “pretty raw”. But that’s deliberate.
Having toured the US with Michael Kiwanuka and Ben Howard in September and October, the songs are designed to reflect both the energy of his live shows and his experiences on the road.
Worn Down By Time and Solid Ground, for instance, brings hints of an imagination caught wandering among the church choirs of America. The former, in particular, is a song that Foster wanted to sound familiar to an old Otis Redding song, “or a bit like the way Van Morrison played with The Band on The Last Waltz”.
Elsewhere, there’s elements of rock and blues to augment his more familiar folk sound, as well as cinematic string arrangements.
Indeed, on perhaps the mini album’s most surprising moment, its title track, Foster devotes the song to melancholy strings without feeling the need for words. It’s a three minute interlude that has a cinematic quality and which is nicely delivered… pensive even.
It sets up the album closer Solid Ground in excellent fashion, a moody slow-burner that begins with the intriguing line “even though people follow gold”. Foster’s trademark husk is perhaps more pronounced than ever and is perfectly suited to the sparse instrumental arrangement, lending the track an intimacy that’s disarming. You feel compelled to listen to every word. And it also carries that Van Morrison vibe Foster clearly likes.
Earlier on, album opener Worn Down By Time is a grower that does successfully fuse elements of Redding and Morrison to create an affecting slow builder. The guitars are subdued, while the instrumentals as a whole have a Motown meets upbeat soul vibe that is eventually augmented by the inclusion of some brass. It’s classily achieved.
There’s time for more tender reflection on the appealing In This Town, as well as an outpouring of energy on the blues-rock stomp of Strange Woods, which also recalls one of Foster’s own earlier hits, Rushes & Reeds.
Put together, it’s a satisfying underlining of why Foster continues to be so highly regarded by critics and fans. And it bridges the gap nicely before the arrival of that sophomore album.
Download picks: Worn Down By Time, Strange Woods, Solid Ground