Fountainhead : Nothing Can Stay2016
The most exhilarating concert I ever went to was The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues Tour at Liverpool's Royal Court in March 1989; the whole venue was raucously and joyously alive from the first note to the last. Although that probably ages me pretty much conclusively it still lifts my heart to think of it. Anything that comes at me citing that band as an explicit influence has some standard to meet. I like Tracy Chapman too - her first album was great - and there she is in Fountainhead's list, there's a real risk of some sacrilege here.
Emanating from the Welsh Valleys Fountainhead play 'country tinged electric folk music', and they have a long heritage - having played for ten years as a band before taking a few years off prior to this current rebirth. Two things elevate them immediately, instantly dismissing the thought of any transgression against their stated musical antecedents: firstly Beth Dowsett's voice is a minor wonder, and secondly guitarist and songwriter, Tom Stupple, ably assisted by Beth, can pen a tune.
Both of these attributes are effectively showcased on their new album, Nothing Can Stay.
It's a rewarding listen. There is certainly a country inflection in Broken Gold, the first track, a spirited but fragile-voiced ballad, for the second, Built my House on Love, its two notches up to expressive yearning. Rosie is more uplifting, in that country sense of life is awful but there's still the pedal steel guitar to perversely cheer you up. These opening three are all very good songs, but it is the voice that enthralls - as it is a potent and emotive instrument with elements of Stevie Nicks, a shard of Natalie Merchant and perhaps a splinter of Patti Smith in its tones, the latter if she had been a Nashville star rather than a New Jersey shaman. The standard continues until Cinderella and me, the simplest track here, and one of the best.
The worthy title track, Nothing Can Stay, follows - it has a great opening guitar line and the same sense of emotional upheaval that most of the songs here embody but is the most musically varied of the tracks - starting with electric country that effortlessly conjours images of childhood Saturday afternoons spent watching Western films, and managing a few moments of something closer to funk near the close.
Of the rest the stand outs are The Irishman and the Muddy River, a well framed story folk song, and the last track, the mellow Ship Without Anchor, is a lovely piece of restrained folk pop.
It's straight forward - this album is very good - Beth Dowsett's voice adds striking emotional fluency to the intelligent songwriting. As might have been said at the Royal Court in 1989, it's boss.