The Way of the World Reviews
Music News Nashville
Upon first listen, I didn’t know quite what to make of Alan West. The music is there, and so are the vocals. But, as is the case with true artists, the music doesn’t fit neatly in a little box, and his vocals aren’t polished and ProTool-ed to death where you wonder if there is any soul to what you are listening to. The vocals are Country. No, wait…they’re folk….Maybe a little Jazz…Can you classify this? Where does it fit?
There’s no set answer to that question, as the music of Alan West can go in a lot of different areas. I will say this--he never fails to captivate the attention on this disc. Whether it’s the classic feel of “The Big Freeze,” or the Ray Price-shuffle feel of “Stick Around Awhile,” there’s definitely something for everyone here. Granted, it might not surface on mainstream radio, but something tells me that when you hear a performance like “Wasilla” or “You’re On Your Own,” that you probably won’t mind….Then again, I doubt Alan West is losing sleep about it either!
This is a good’un - a classy, totally authentic-sounding new album from Alan, a performer with a deep-rooted passion for the better end of mainstream country music; Alan’s established himself over the past three decades as one of the UK’s finest exponents of that sometimes-unjustly-maligned musical genre. Previously winner of the British Country Music Association awards (as part of the duo West & Elliott), Alan went on to release the critically-acclaimed solo album Songs From A Neophyte, the success of which led to him being offered a tour with Hal Ketchum no less.
The Way Of The World is Alan’s followup record, and it consists entirely of the compositions of Steve Black, an unsung songwriter if ever there was one. Steve seems to have a total and unforced command of every branch of country music songwriting, from heartbreaker-ballads (Line In The Sand, You’re On Your Own) to plaintive love-songs (I’m Not Over You, Wasilla, The World That’s Lost Your Name), plain-talkin’ honky-tonk (How Much Time, Stick Around A While) to rockin’ twang (Keep The Spirit), the decidedly Steve-Earle-esque The Big Freeze, and even a spot of southern-mex-shuffle (Devil Or An Angel). And Alan’s straightahead and sympathetic delivery, backed by his accomplished touring band (which features Dean Barnes, Marie Dazzler, Bruno Liger and John Taylor), just can’t be faulted but is at the same time genuinely involving without going over the top in any way. Oh, and Alan’s even persuaded Albert Lee and Sarah Jory to contribute to his new record - can’t be bad, eh? Quality through and through, this solid but enviably relaxed record should well satisfy the Bob Harris playlist and its serious Americana and country music aficionados.
David Kidman May 2010
When it comes to country music, the UK has all too often been seen as the poor cousin to those Stateside, but Englishman Alan West with the help of 11-songs from the esteemed pen of fellow Brit, Steven Black alongside ace instrumental support from Sarah Jory (pedal steel, acoustic guitar and harmony vocals) and one-time American west-coast session kingpin and member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, guitar virtuoso Albert Lee (piano, harmony vocals) and Dean Barnes, John Taylor and Bruno Liger among others ensure the efforts of both the songwriter and musicians gain worthy presentation.
West who has been plying his trade has a fine vocal which is never finer illustrated than when, in the company of Dobro and a slow, shuffling rhythm he tenders the love ballad ‘I’m Not over You’ and like with the vigour powered ‘How Much Time’ —he underlines his passion and belief in the lyrics he is singing. Like any good act, during the duration of the song he is the character in the song and lives the heartache and joy (whatever may be the case). On an album containing more ace tracks than not. The music strikes home time and time again; and there is a touch of wry humour throw in for good measure as ‘The Big Freeze’ and pedal steel primed ‘Stick Around A While’ which likewise possesses some fine electric lead guitar, piano and more open the floodgates! The latter would rank as noteworthy in the repertoire of a good many more established acts on the other side of the big pond such is the relaxed, but firm timbre of his full-bodied vocals.
Of the remainder, ‘Wasilla’ a plaintive love ballad featuring subdued mandolin and fiddle and the southern flavoured Florida sounding (almost) ‘Devil Or An Angel’ make an instant impression; as for the others the painstaking ‘Line In The Sand’ and ‘You’re on Your own’ a slow, tortured ballad akin to something the late Vern Gosdin would have relished and I am enjoying more with each listen show West well able to sing a good old country hurting song! ‘The Way Of The World’ likewise has some of the same feel (and is that Lee doing more than sing harmony, but near duet vocals on the delightful piece) . Europe may be as far as West’s fame will stretch, but on home territory it will take a good man to better him no matter from where they hail.
Maverick Magazine April 2010
Uniquely impressive country-Americana-acoustic album that is destined to make its mark among fans of meaningful, heartfelt songwriting
This latest album from Alan West could so easily have been sub-titled: Sings the songs of Steve Black. In no way wishing to detract from Alan’s always superb vocals, or the inspired musical arrangements, what make this album shine is the sheer quality of Blackie’s songs. Right from The Big Freeze opening track, this album is steeped with razor sharp guitars while the edgy vocals bellow moving poetry. That song, like so many, is a compelling yarn that has you hooked from the first to the last word—Steve Earle would give his right arm to have written such a classic song. Just as impressive is The World That’s Lost Your Name a co-write by Blackie and Alan West with its echoes of those heady 1990s days of Hal Ketchum. Another nod to that sound comes by way of the slower I’m Not Over You—Alan’s emotive vocals emulate both Ketchum and cult country legend Mel Street. Wasilla takes all this, adds some exceptional flowing lyrics to create a lovely river of song. How Much Time is a mid-tempo honky-tonk-styled song that features great fiddle and a great two-stepping beat that would go down a storm in those good ol’ Texas dancehalls. Line In the Sand packs a powerful punch of deep and soulful passion steeped with Alan’s vocals as formidable and commanding as the great country singers George Jones or Vern Gosdin.
There is a great deal of passion in the performances throughout this CD, with driving verses and powerful, well harmonised choruses. The arrangements are full, well-layered and the songs are radio-ready as far as quality is concerned. Add the contributions of lead guitarist Dean Barnes Dobroist and lap steel guitarist Bruno Liger, bassist Marie Dazzler, fiddler Eimear Bradley, mandolinist Simon Brady, keyboardist/guitarist John Taylor and special guests Albert Lee (piano, electric guitar) and Sarah Jory (pedal steel, Dobro), and this gets a much deserved recommendation. Kelvin Henderson should be smiling with delight that his early belief in Alan West has so positively been confirmed by THE WAY OF THE WORLD. This is country/Americana at its best and deserves a good listen from any fan of that genre.
Get Ready To Rock March 2010
A strange one to appear on the GRTR! site. Because Alan West is more country than country. But then Nashville has expanded its influences in recent years. And while country was once frowned on by the rock fraternity, Whispering Bob has spread the word, and even Robert Plant has fallen to the genre's many charms. The Way Of The World, could be massive stateside, but the surprise is that this cover album of Steve Black songs was recorded on these fair shores and includes guest appearances by Albert Lee and Sarah Joy. It's a quality piece of work that should go down a storm on the country / folk circuit, but for some it may be just a little too traditional. Expect regular airing by Mr Harris. ***
Music Maker August 2010
In Alan West the UK has a singer who might just have the finest country voice this side of the big pond, if not the equal of anyone stateside. Don’t believe me? Then take a listen to The Way of the World - it says something when the man is able to attract the likes of Albert Lee and Sarah Jory to his recordings. The Way of the World features a set of original songs by Steve Black, all of which are impressively interpreted by a voice so rich and strong, that it simply glides along with more than the occasional nod in the direction of George Jones. With some fantastic lap steel by Bruno Liger, this might be Nashville via Devon but you’d never know the difference - a most enjoyable and accomplished offering.