Far from Hitchin, in the frozen wastes of Orkney, a polymath beavers away. This is where you will find Paul Dews, the mastermind behind How far to Hitchin. Screams and Whispers is the third album released under this moniker, and my first album to review for 2022; it is very encouraging. The first track I heard was Cherish, and there is just something about it that just gets under your skin. It’s the first track that grabbed my attention, but it is not the only one to do so. This is a very accomplished album that demands your attention. From the opening largo until the last lights of Cherish you are struck by the depth and overall listenability of it all.
The second strong song is This Day. The tunes are in the Goldilocks zone – they can excel, and do, but like little bears’ porridge, they leave a taste that is just right. The more erudite will attach the physics and planet analogy to this (?). It opens simply, with hammered dulcimer perhaps, before taking a path that is a cross between a Bowie ethic and a Howard Jones feel. It just grows, with a strong lyric. Paul gives an insight to all his tunes on his web page, and also a potted picture of himself. It does justice to the narrative, effectively describing his journey to now and some wonderful views of his artwork. Other than supporting musicians this really is a one-stop shop.
Back to the start of the album, the opening track, though not indictive of the whole, is representative of the very high standard of production. Alan Parson qualities, particularly when harmonising the vocals. Preparing for Life is all that, and in a touch of irony ends with a death. Morbid, possibly, but the album just sings life.
Lyrically, the delivery is very Bowie, all schools, all eras, while the words themselves seem to come from The Divine Comedy. This to me is high praise, and I hope you and the artist consider it as such. Rubber People possibly highlights this comparison, with just a frisson of Kate Bush.
Common Rise has grown immensely on me, and this is an album that is quite traditional in length, but carefully considered and crafted in a manner that nothing is wasted; everything is pretty close to perfect, and even though I picked this up in January it will be a strong contender for inclusion in a year end Top 10, and likely in the top half.
Anthony Phillips (Genesis at the dawn of that band) is a named influence, and the qualities Ant would bring to a piece are in the veins running through Entropy, with hints of Steve Hackett too. I am sure that should Ant hear it he would be taken with it. Just beautiful. This leads us to where I began with Cherish. I haven’t missed the title track but along with the rest of the album it is something to savour. If vinyl exists it would be worth the extra just to enjoy the measure of the different tone that an LP would bring, with the bonus of, to my eye, the exquisite cover art that Mr Dews has produced as well. I am very tempted to invest in one of the giclée for my studio wall. So, visit the website and the one you NEED to purchase is Screams & Whispers, the title and second track.
01. Preparing for Life (1:24)
02. Screams & Whispers (8:13)
03. This Day (7:12)
04. Rubber People (5:51)
05. Common Rise (6:54)
06. Entropy (4:05)
07. Cherish (10:06)
Total Time – 43:45
Paul Dews – 6 & 12-string Acoustic, Electric, Nylon String Guitars, Bass Guitar, Ukulele, Mandolin, Flute, Keyboards, Percussion, Drum Programming, Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st January 2022