THIS ONE SAT on my review pile (my audition hemorrhoids?) for months, possibly because it’s just not my cup of tea. Hayden Donnell sounds for all the world like his big inspirations are all those drama queens of big gesture rock, those gospel-sodden white-boys like The Band and Bruce Springsteen, with more than a touch of their Celtic equivalents: The Waterboys, and even a sprinkle of U2 fervour. Just with a New Zild accent.
In short: YUCK! I’ve always disliked that stuff, but something drew me back to listening to Up In Smoke a second time. Donnell is clearly dealing with his demons in a highly personal (if public) way, and while the album does have an old-timey religious, country-folk fervor about it, the component parts are well cooked, and fit together with near-perfection.
The recording itself helps a lot: Donnell’s voice is captured with a certain richness, the instruments are dished out with minimal signs of compression, and the soundstage is deep and wide.
At its best, it’s the ghost of a younger Don McGlashan that emerges – it’s not so far removed from The Front Lawn’s ‘Andy’, a song that’s clearly of Celtic origin without any sense of imitation.
Great North is clearly in thrall to that abiding American gospel-folk-country-rock combobulation however, and for all its merits, it leans a little too heavily on that tradition. GARY STEEL
Sound = 4
Music = 3