Songs from a Neophyte Reviews
Up-Country Magazine, April 2008
They don’t just make great cream teas in Devon and it seems all that sea air and fresh mown hay helped to feed the deeply held passion Alan West has nurtured since the age of six for Country music. Twenty years on he has established himself as one of the UK’s finest Country singer/songwriters and performers. Sarah Jory tells it straight, ‘he can sell a song in such a way that you live every line with him’. It’s true.
His latest offering recorded in the legendary Mountainside Studios in Nashville, produced by Pat McInerney is a moving collection of songs by some of Country’s greats, including Hugh Moffatt and Chris Knight who penned Framed, an up tempo bluegrass offering. The Jealous Kind is sung with the voice of a cowboy, mid tempo with pleasant guitar riffs.
At times he is almost Cash-like in cadence, especially when he gets his chops around the compelling You’d Be Wrong. The title track, Jim Almand’s Songs For A Neophyte is easy going Country. You can almost smell the barbequed ribs! Guy Clark’s touching, The Partner Nobody Chose, aah! Intrinsic, understanding of how it feels when nobody asks you to dance and so much more.
Steve Earle’s I Don’t Want To Lose You Yet is a great tempo Country rocker handled with care. The track that I found most powerful was Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London which Alan delivers like a gift of truth. If you are feeling sorry for yourself this will stop you in your tracks, whether you’ve been asked to dance or not. There have been so many cover versions of this classic but this is one of the best you’ll hear. By My Side by Darden Smith is the lively two stepping toe tapper that leaves you smiling and like all good things, including cream teas, wanting more.
OVERALL RATING ~ Alan understands what Country Music is all about. His gruff baritone deep and emotional vocals and skilled mastery of grabbing your attention and holding it demonstrates easy listening at it’s most enjoyable.
Southern Country Magazine – March 2008
Alan West ventures where no other British Country artist goes, but you’ve got to have the talent and style to tread that path. There’s never any doubt that Alan has it in abundance in this latest album. Alan has a knack of picking such good songs that complement his voice as well. The musicians on the album are of the highest standard, I especially liked the steel guitar, the up tempo Darden Smith song, “By My Side” is a favourite of mine, which I remember from a few years back. Not sure about “Streets of London” maybe I’ve heard it too many times over the years, but a pleasant and nice arrangement though. Excellent album, highly recommended. If you get the chance, get out and catch this guy perform at a venue near you. You won’t be disappointed.
Paul Davis www.pauldavisauthor.com - 13 February 2008
Neophyte? What on earth does it mean? I went to the dictionary to discover that it means “a new beginner or a convert”. He’s done 4 CDs but comes unknown to me but apparently should gain quite a foothold in with this uncomplicated Nashville-produced album with Pat McInerney in charge. This Brit is modern-country balladeer who has an engaging vocal-sound laced with gentle urban- flavours, a well-chosen mix likely to succeed. The songs, direct-and-honest, are packaged musically and clearly as a labour-of-love and is an album worth searching out. I found this country-blues CD a heart-warming project of honest sentimental material to solid but gentle country backing. Produced in style, this enterprise finds the mellow country music neophyte with an easy-on-the-ear virtuosity that deserves to be an influential mover in the genre.
Devon’s Alan West has built up a strong following over the years for his original interpretations of ‘classic’ American singer songwriters.
For the last 40 odd years West has plied his trade and for this record he travelled to Nashville where the record was produced by Pat McInerney, and to Alan’s credit he has steered away from the usual suspects on this predominantly ‘covers’ record.
Alan has bravely chosen songs by Chris Knight ‘Framed’, Darden Smith ‘By My Side’, Hugh Moffat ‘How Could I Lover Her So Much’, Dave Loggins ‘Please Come To Boston’ plus ‘The Streets of London’ and Steve Earle’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You Yet’. There is one original song co-written with Steve Black ‘You’d Be Wrong’.
On two levels this is an excellent record - firstly as an introduction to some of these lesser known songwriters, and secondly you can hear Alan West’s voice and start seeking out his back catalogue.
Maverick Magazine Feb 2008
There are so many British artists who, year in, year out, tirelessly hot-foot the length and breath of the country playing clubs and pubs, earning a virtual pittance which, after meeting their expenses, leaves little to invest in anything but an album recorded on a shoestring budget. Alan West, a talented musician and singer, started out in the business in 1978, but he has never settled on releasing an inferior album. This is only his fourth release and, by his own admission, has taken in the region of two years to complete. Despite what a number of British artists claim, that there is no real advantage in spending a lot of money by recording in Nashville, West disproves that notion by doing precisely that, and the results show that, provided one has the talent, Nashville does have a lot to offer. SONGS FROM A NEOPHYTE was produced by Pat McInerney, recorded at the Mountainside Studios and engineered by Bill VornDick. West worked tirelessly for three weeks with musicians like Thom Jutz, (guitar), the man who has recently relocated to Nashville but who had previously worked on so many of Richard Dobson’s albums in Germany, Mike Daly, (Dobro and lap steel), Michael Webb, (keyboards), Deanie Richardson, (mandolin and fiddle), a player who recorded with The New Coon Creek Girls and who has appeared on numerous albums by major artists, and Pat McInerney, (drums and percussion). All the tracks were recorded in Nashville although a few were further enhanced at Mirage Music studios in Cleveland, engineered by John Taylor and featuring Sarah Jory on pedal steel and harmony vocals.
West has the type of voice ideally suited to country music. There is not a trace of a pseudo-Trans Atlantic accent, yet he does not sound patently ‘British’ either. Although not a prolific writer, he is a great interpreter of songs. He does, however contribute one number, You’d Be Wrong, which he co-wrote with Steve Black. The remaining ten tracks will be largely familiar to those who take an interest in the singer/songwriter scene. The album opens with the driving Framed, written by Chris Knight. Included is another Knight original, The Jealous Kind. There are two Jim Almand contributions, The Likes Of You and Song For A Neophyte, the soulful Dave Loggins number, Please Come To Boston, recorded in the past by David Allan Coe and Joan Baez, among others, and more recently revived by Kenny Chesney, Hugh Moffatt’s plaintive How Could I Love Her So Much, with Guy Clark’s doleful The Partner Nobody Chose added to the mix. Finally, there’s a number from Steve Earle’s catalogue, I Don’t Wanna Lose You Yet, with the closing track, By My Side, coming courtesy of Darden Smith. Interestingly, West has selected Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London, but he has approached this in his own way giving it a whole new lease of life.
SONGS FROM A NEOPHYTE is a ‘songwriter’s showcase’; strong material, ideal backing, extremely well produced and delivered by one of Britain’s more stylish solo performers. It is an album well worth checking out.
“The David Allan Page” Country Music People - Feb 2008
Songs from a Neophyte finds Alan West (formerly one half of West & Elliott) in really cracking form, reviving lesser aired compositions crafted by some of his favourite writers including Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Ralph McTell, Dave Loggins and Jim Almand together with a fine original number which he penned with Steve Black. The set was recorded in Nashville and Cleveland with Production by Pat McInerney and the inclusion of Sarah Jory on steel and vocals is inspired. Alan effortlessly extracts the maximum of emotion out of each song and the result literally takes your breath away at times. His version of Hugh Moffatts How could I love her so much had this old softie close to tears. Incredibly this major talent is currently playing only a few local clubs and pubs in his native Devon. Have we no far-seeing promoters left in the UK?”