by Mike Gates
I’d like to share with you a little story. When I was a fresh-faced 17 year old, (yes, it was a long time ago), trying to find my way into the world of music as a budding singer-songwriter, I managed to get a decent support spot at one of the UK’s most popular folk and acoustic venues of that time. The place was packed out (the good old days eh…), and I’d only been performing live for a year or so, having written a dozen or so original songs. On stage that night I was buzzing. It felt amazing. It felt like I had found my place in the world and my reason to be. As I finished my last tune, the audience reaction was incredible. They loved it. They loved me. I was going to be a star. No question.
As I walked from the stage there were so many people from the audience coming up to me asking where I was playing next, had I got an album out yet, did I need a manager, etc., etc. All incredibly positive stuff. As you can imagine I was on cloud 9. As I walked to the back of the room to put my guitar back in its case, the venue owner and promoter tapped me on the shoulder. “Mike” he said, towering over me, “Don’t ever come back to me asking if you can play here again.” I was shocked. After the wonderful response from the audience, I actually thought he was joking. Then he said “Throw your guitar away. Start again. You’re a fucking charlatan. An imposter. A copy-cat. You might have an Ovation guitar and write songs like Roy Harper, but you’re not fucking Roy Harper. So stop trying to sound like him. Find your own voice and ring me in 10 years when you have.” Harsh. And at the time especially difficult to take. But… mostly true despite the ferocity of his tone and manner. Roy Harper was my idol. And as my major influence when beginning to write my own songs, yes, I did almost inevitably sound a little like him. We all have to start somewhere, and it didn’t take me long to develop my own sound and style as I progressed. Why am I telling you this I hear you ask? Well, whilst listening to this new album from David Boswell, I realised I was starting to ask the same question of this release that I asked myself all those years ago; Does it matter if you sound, quite obviously, like somebody else, as long as the audience enjoys it? Now that may sound like a simple question, but actually there isn’t a simple answer. At my gig, would you have been with the audience, or with the promoter? One can make arguments from both viewpoints, and ultimately I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. In the case of this album, David Boswell’s The Story Behind The Story, it is impossible to review without saying this first; it sounds exactly like a Pat Metheny album. Personally I’m a huge Pat Metheny fan so that’s no bad thing for me. But when I say ‘exactly’ like a Pat Metheny album, that really isn’t far off the truth. Boswell’s style of writing, the performances, the arrangements, his acoustic guitar sound, his guitar synth sound, the production… need I go on? Being a huge Metheny fan I could even pinpoint each Boswell composition as “this could be Metheny track A, from so-and-so album”… but I won’t. And why should I? All musicians take influences from a whole myriad of musical styles, genres, and revered musicians. And like my younger self, writing songs that were influenced by Roy Harper, David Boswell has crafted an album of beauty and musical wonder… songs that sound like they’re written from the heart, with adventure, spirit, meaning. Songs that sound rather like Pat Metheny…
So now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about some mighty fine music that I’m listening to at the moment. David Boswell’s “The story behind the story” is an uplifting slice of acoustic jazz at its best. This is the guitarist’s sixth release in a series of refreshingly melodic and adventurous albums. Boswell leads an excellent group of musicians including Scott Kinsey, Mitchel Forman, Bart Samolis, Jimmy Haslip, MB Gordy, Gary Novak and Andy Snitzer. At its core, this is an intoxicating mix of contemporary jazz, with attractive melodies, group interaction and superb soloing, especially from the guitarist himself. There are many highlights throughout this set. “A Los Angeles Minute” is one of the most well-rounded, complete and compelling pieces of music you’ll hear all year. There’s an energy to this tune that is life-affirming. Creative and beautifully performed, one can’t fail to be impressed by its natural warmth and adventurous spirit. “Innocence” has a wistful yet quietly haunting melody, like a long-lost memory that gradually returns to its owner. The title track is another gorgeous piece, building up throughout the tune and climaxing in an epic, celebratory fashion. The lovely “Miraculous” echoes a tribute to the people who made deep impressions in the composer’s life. And the brief yet heartfelt ballad “Prayer for the planet” precedes the wonderfully infectious “Alta”, and the suitably romantic “The Wind In Her Hair”. Another of my favourites “Los Olivos” shows a slightly different light to the guitarist’s compositional style, as does the more commercial-sounding “The Sun And The Moon”. From start to finish we get great arrangements, group interaction, style and substance from all of the musicians involved. Not surprisingly though, it is the guitarist that stands out. His playing is impeccable, whether he’s producing sweet, subtle acoustic textures, clearly defined melodies, beautifully crafted solos, or ramping it up with that classic guitar synth sound. All-in-all, a very enjoyable set that leaves the listener wanting more.
“The Story Behind The Story” is a lovely, heart-warming, uplifting, musical album. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay guitarist Boswell, is that Pat Metheny would probably be proud of some of the music written and performed here.