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Tom McRae - King of Cards

Tom McRae, King of Cards

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TOM McRae’s fourth album King of Cards begins in excellent fashion with the upbeat Set The Story Straight and the equally notable forthcoming single Bright Lights.

But while the remainder of the long player is similarly well composed and thought-provoking, it tends to drift towards the downbeat and ultimately fails to realise its early potential.

McRae is, of course, an Essex-born singer-songwriter who released his Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut at the height of the “new acoustic movement” in 2001.

But while each subsequent release has continued to garner acclaim, McRae has failed to establish himself at the forefront of the movement he helped to create.

King of Cards certainly suggests a spirited revival during its early songs.

Set The Story Straight is a beautifully shimmering opening that kicks off with a thunderous drum beat (by his standards) and some brooding guitar licks that give rise to a song of haunting beauty. McRae’s vocals are stunning and the lyrics among the most romantic he has possibly penned.

Bright Lights, meanwhile, unfolds amid some upbeat piano chords, before really letting go with a rousing chorus that’s delivered with passion and gusto.

But things slow down somewhat on Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets, a tale of a broken relationship that’s filled with longing and sadness.

And on subsequent efforts McRae opts to keep things mostly brooding and low-key with the exceptions of Sound Of The City and One Mississippi.

His songwriting remains articulate and the stories he tells are often beautifully realised (witness tales such as Houdini And The Girl and The Ballad of Emilia Earhart) but there’s a sense that the album could have been a great deal more inspirational than it is.

As things stand, it’s intricate, layered, thought-provoking stuff that sadly is a little too hard to warm to.

Download picks: Set The Story Straight, Bright Lights, Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets, Sound Of The City, One Mississippi

Track listing:

  1. Set The Story Straight
  2. Bright Lights
  3. Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets
  4. Keep Your Picture Clear
  5. Houdini And The Girl
  6. Sound Of The City
  7. On And On
  8. Deliver Me
  9. One Mississippi
  10. The Ballad Of Amelia Earhart
  11. Lord, How Long?