Tom Robinson has bravely made the move from behind the radio mic at 6 Music to throwing his lot in with the rest of the bands vying for position on the national music scene with his new album, ‘Only The Now’. His first new musical output in 20 years sees him back with long term collaborators Adam Phillips and Gerry Diver who also produced the whole album.
It includes various guest appearances; some more obvious than others with Billy Bragg appropriately lending his voice to the protest song, ‘The mighty Sword of Justice’; There couldn’t be a more Bragg title to my mind. A catchy and sincere tune that observes
“They infiltrated Occupy /And crippled them with fines/There’s one law for the 1%/And another for the ninety-nine”
A less obvious guest is Colin Firth, not in a musical capacity but as the voice of the newsreader announcing cuts in legal aid in the opening bars of the song.
Even less expected, but every shade of awesome is the mighty voice of Sir Ian Mckellen who naturally, is playing God. It’s the only place you can go once you’ve been Gandalf. The track was inspired by two friends of Tom’s who as teenagers in rural Wales decided that in the face of a Rizla based emergency, you could just as easily skin up using the wafer thin pages from the family bible. West London rapper Swami Baracus, who Robinson has played extensively on 6 Music, makes an appearance on the same tune.
The whole album is a fairly pop affair, with some lovely thoughtful arrangements of strings, voices and even steel pans making a brief appearance. There’s plenty of catchy choruses despite the weighty themes included in some of the songs; alcoholism and suicide in ‘Don’t Jump, Don’t Fall’ Robinson speaking most of the of the song but without descending into cringing territory; maybe a legacy of so long spent on radio. Religious fundamentalism gets a mention on ‘Merciful God’ but also there’s some real moments of tenderness; folk legend Martin Carthy adds his voice to a cover of the Beatles, ‘In My Life’ and the title track closing the whole album an acoustic number, gentle and sincere.
The band has already played at Latitude, Green Man and Glastonbury this year and they’re taking to the road from now until November, you can catch them at the Sage Gateshead on 9th November, where they promise to play songs not only from the new album but spanning Tom’s whole career.
I also ride horses and can shoot a bow and arrow. One day I fully intend to bring these talents into conjunction with one another.
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