Chris Thomas - Bound To The Ocean
The West Country of the U.K. is a real blessing for songwriters, particularly those that love the great outdoors and the natural world. The rolling seas, big skies, rocky coves, sandy beaches, desolate moors and vibrant green countryside offer endless inspirations in the ever-changing light. Bound To The Ocean is the debut album from Devon-based singer-songwriter, Chris Thomas, and it perfectly captures these inspirations with its delightfully laid-back, lush acoustic feel. It’s wall-to-wall with great tunes sung from the heart, and the perfect soundtrack to a lazy summer Sunday by the sea. Lay back and listen, and you’ll be carried away to where the waves lap and crash under a brilliant sun, and a warm breeze kisses your cheeks and ruffles your hair.
The LP is just brimming with catchy, melodic acoustic Americana par-excellence, with Chris’ warm soulful voice delivering heartfelt, life-affirming lyrics, and deft, gentle guitar work at the centre. Around, and in between, the subtle and thoughtful arrangements include mostly brushed drums, and warm bass lines that lay down a wonderful solid groove, with some heavenly backing vocals and a careful scattering of banjo, piano, ukelele and strings for variety. These sparse arrangements are beautifully put together and never sound lacking - it feels both spacious and warm at the same time. I am reluctant to rely on comparisons, because the tracks have their own unique sound, but to my ears there are echoes of some of my favourite classic artists - Paul Simon, Van Morrison, James Taylor, and closer to the present day, Josh Rouse and a West-Country take on Jack Johnson - to name but a few.
The album begins with the lovely “Whenever I Sing Georgia”, which has an almost tropical summery feel and southern-sounding female backing vocals. The ukelele-driven “Turning Stones” tells a tale of falling in love by the ocean, picking up a country vibe when the banjo, drums and bass kick in. The stunning title track, “Bound To The Ocean” has sparkling, fluid guitar lines that brought the seashore close, and left me homesick for Devon as I sat listening in an underground London pub. There are masterful rolling finger-picked acoustic guitars and lovely string arrangements on “If Not You”, while the instantly catchy “Don’t Follow Me” has rockier, R.E.M./Tom Petty-esque riffing electric guitars and a mercurial slide solo.
A funky country-blues groove rolls under “So Long (Travelling Away)”, reminiscent of the chilled-out country soul of JJ Cale and Little Feat. The touching, piano ballad “Listen To Me” speaks of unsung could-be musical heroes met along the way, and slowly builds into a rockin’ anthem as the drums, bass, guitar and Hammond join in. There are hints of Wild Wood and Stanley Road-era Paul Weller on the piano and guitar-led soul rocker “Sunkiss”; and skiffling acoustic guitar with babbling banjo lines on the delightfully pretty ode to Chris’ young daughter, “Gwendolyn Rose”. Sizzling, swinging heartbreak blues follow on “Heart Is Broke”, with immaculate velvet-toned vocals, slide guitar and a tinkling piano solo. The penultimate track, “Back Before The Storm”, is a haunting sing-along ballad telling the tale of an ill-fated fishing boat. And, like all good things, we end much where we began, with the beautiful sunny mid-tempo groove of “Wake Up Smiling” - the perfect start to a new day.
Bound To The Ocean is an uplifting, and beautifully put together chill-out record. A record to fall in love with, and to fall in love to. Make it your playlist for the summer!
Bound to the Ocean is available now on CD or download on Bandcamp, and on a wide range of download/streaming sites including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer & many more.
Stream it Here!
Chris Thomas at Long Lunch Music (publisher) http://longlunchmusic.com/roster/chris-thomas-1/