Shadow Play by Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil [9/10]

Following last year’s brilliant Swallowing the Sun (catch my review) from English folk-rock master Steve Robinson, my truncated listening roster for 2022 is notable for “Shadow Play” from his joint project with an American power pop cult figure I know little about, Ed Woltil. If Robinson’s solo gem reeked of Wesley Stace, the Jayhawks, and the Microphones, the duet’s combinatorics add other influences; I can also hear the influence of late 60s psychedelia and the Beatles. Shadow Play is a powerful mix of sunny power-pop (“Shadow World” and “On Your Side”), throwback homages (the piano and organ in “Lifeboat” and the woozy, atmospheric “Ultramarine,” featuring an oh-so-welcome melodic guitar wig-out from ex-XTC Dave Gregory), and love songs such as the soft, coiled “One Day Never.” Maybe it’s a reflection of my own ambiguous existential state at the moment but I weep every time I listen to “On the Way to My Appointment with Death,” a Lennon-esque, quirky reverie (why, oh, why couldn’t they have extended the three minutes of this bliss to, say, twenty?). Consummate musicianship, sharp and intelligent lyrics, and achingly light or sunny vocals … Shadow Play is a benediction from start to finish.

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