You may have come across my fellow reviewer Martin Hutchinson. We have both been doing this scribbling thing for a long time now, but suffice to say, our musical Venn diagrams seem to have a rather small crossover section. The other day I happened across his post about an album by the oddly named One Sided Horse, wherein my Yorkie colleague waxed lyrical and long about its merits. Always willing to try anything once, but not expecting it to float my coracle, I gave this a virtual spin, and boy, am I glad I did!
My Favourite City at Night in the Rain for me ranks alongside the equally emotionally charged and recently released Fuse by Everything But The Girl as a superlative document of love found, lived, and lost which hits me right in that vulnerable spot, made raw by losing someone very close to me earlier in this troubled year. Leaving aside my own reactions to a highly moving but ultimately simple offering like The Overload of Missing You, wherein the simple refrain of the title is repeated many times to building effect, the songs on this album are all love songs, mostly sung from underneath a blanket of cosseting melancholy, but buoyed by the occasional light offered by songs full of hope. Given the delicate subject matter tackled on this album, this is not an easy lyrical or musical trick to pull off and is a contrast that is handled with a deft touch without ever coming across as mawkish.
One Sided Horse – where does that name come from? – is actually Mark Whiteside, the singing drummer from thumping psych-metal Northern noiseniks Evil Blizzard, where he assumes the more succinct but still unlikely moniker of “Side”. Not the place then for emotionally wrought vignettes about love and life, hence no doubt the need for this outlet for his sensitive side… or is that Side? As One Sided Horse, Mark’s muse inhabits an alternative existence where Paul Buchanan meets up with Leonard Cohen for regular mutual therapy sessions in a sparsely populated all night bar, where over several whiskies and by the low yellow glow of a faltering table lamp they swap their stories of lives lived on the emotional rollercoaster of love.
My Favourite City at Night in the Rain starts with the title track, Mark accompanied by a lone piano playing out a semi-familiar melody… it will come to me… with muted strings in the background. The album is presented as two continuous tracks – the two sides of vinyl – and the titular song ends abruptly and the aforementioned The Overload of Missing You takes what will become a more familiar musical template, with electronica and brass, and a soaring fuzzed guitar backing a track of huge emotional impact.
Nothing seems to fill that empty space
Feeling the overload of missing you
Never thought I’d lose your warm embrace.”
Nowhere is the contrast between melancholy and hope writ larger than between the very introspective I Won’t Ask For More, and the following Let’s Start Fires, a song that puts into words the electric spark of excitement of a new liaison, Mark in duet with Carol Hodge perfectly illustrating two characters in simpatico. Quite lovely, and my favourite track on the album. I Can’t Live Without Your Love makes use of sweeping strings to send us out onto a rolling sea of heartbreak, and Like Swans is about the certainty of being together forever, but has an ambiguous air. All through the album, Mark’s lyrics are simple but hit the spot, and his voice sounds like it has lived a life, and is a perfect fit.
The musical backing on the album takes a back seat to Mark’s careworn vocals, yet at the same time it is fulsome, and is provided by members of rock band Embrace, with a full supporting cast (see credits). Embrace’s Mickey Dale takes on the role of producer too, and appears to act as a musical director, and he has done a fantastic job, I have to say! The musicians’ contributions never get in the way of the song, which after all is what this project is all about. Those songs seem to float past a steamed-up rain dappled window as the listener gazes wistfully out and up at the leaden skies glowering over the unending sulphurous glow of the city late at night.
My Favourite City at Night in the Rain will certainly figure in my best albums of the year, no question. While my reactions to these songs are down to the fraught early quarter of 2023 that I lived through, I am sure you don’t have to have recently gone through the emotional wringer to appreciate this fine example of songcraft at its best. After all, we’ve all been there at some point.
My favourite city at night in the rain? Probably Edinburgh, Barbara loved that place.
01. First Half (19:34)
– My Favourite City at Night in the Rain
– The Overload of Missing You
– I Can’t Live Without Your Love
– A Short Story from a Room in Philadelphia
– Uneven Land
– Like Swans
02. Second Half (20:01)
– Passing Years
– Find the Time
– I Won’t Ask for More
– Let’s Start Fires
– Close Swim
03. Extra Time – Let’s Start Fires (Encore feat. Carol Hodge) (3:59)
Total Time – 43:34
[This is the download version. The tracks are in a different order on the vinyl edition, but start with the same two songs.]
One Sided Horse – Vocals, Guitars, Trumpet, Drums (tracks 2.2 & 2.6)
Mickey Dale – Piano, Rhodes, Organ, Moog, Synthesisers, Guitars, Bass
Steve Firth – Bass (track 1.5)
Carol Hodge – Duet (track 2.4)
Mike Heaton – Drums (tracks 1.2 & 2.4)
Norm Helm – Fretless bass (track 2.1)
Gareth Cole – 6- & 12-string Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Dobro, E-Bow, Creaky Chair
Phil Hartley – Bass (track 2.5)
Grace Wohlsen – Spoken Story (track 1.4)
Record Label: Butterfly Effect Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 8th September 2023