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Proud Mary - Love & Light


Review: Jack Foley

PROUD Mary wear their influences on their sleeves. Everything from The Byrds to early Stones, through Dylan to The Beach Boys. It is their strength, and their weakness.

Their second album, Love and Light, could well be a tribute to all of the artists who have so clearly influenced them, yet while certainly excellent in places, it can also be extremely frustrating.

Built around the nucleus of Greg Griffin (vocals) and Paul ‘Spot’ Newsome (guitars and vocals), Proud Mary spent much of 2003 writing and recording the new album, and you can very much tell that this is a labour of love.

It also marks a considerable step forward, for, having been signed to Noel Gallagher’s Sour Mash label and carrying too heavy a burden of expectation when they released their debut album, The Same Old Blues, there was a danger they may have faded from the scene.

If anything, they are back stronger, as Love and Light boasts some terrific tracks, without necessarily being a terrific album.

Described as ‘a musical journey through Tennessee and Louisiana, and on through Texas and California’, it is a trip made all the more surprising for its starting point, in Manchester.

Proud Mary took their lead, like their name, from southern swamp rockers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and have tried to develop a sound that draws from across the American canon: be it The Band, Neil Young, or Bob Dylan.

Hence, listeners can expect a heady mix of country, blues and rock ’n’ roll, which confirms their reputation as accomplished ‘interpreters of an unforgettable age’.

Highlights include the opening track, Love To Love You, which unfolds using a Beta Band-style beat that neatly accompanies the country/rock feel, while Mexico finds the band at its most rock-driven, shaking off some of the more Dylan-based excesses.

Referring to Dylan, penultimate track, Into Your Arms, is etched in blues-tinged country-folk, boasting moody lyrics such as 'one night whilst driving, across a county border, I was alone, all by myself, I missed the turning, and slipped the wheel, now it's too late, my life is gone'.

Indeed, there are even touches of more contemporary bands, such as Gomez, in some of the vocal style of both Griffin and Newsome, especially during the latter stages of Hats Off! which works to Proud Mary’s advantage.

But, there are also times when the album seems content to drift along as a musical homage, without having the audacity to go it alone. It is during these moments (on tracks such as Rain on Me and the piano-led Lady of the Country) where the interest starts to waver and, with it, the album’s momentum.

It remains to be seen whether, having redefined themselves and come back stronger once, they can do it again, because there is a feeling, throughout, they could really do with stretching themselves a little further, if they are to realise the potential displayed here.

Track listing:
1. Love To Love You
2. Hats Off!
3. Love And Light
4. Mexico
5. Rain On Me
6. Blues
7. Lady Of The Country
8. Mundane Morning
9. She Don't Know
10. Never Good Night
11. Into Your Arms
12. The End

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