After showing off his acoustic chops in 2014 with the garlanded Man and Guitar and Picnic Sessions albums, Ian Siegal now takes 2015 by the scruff of the neck, with an excellent live set backed by a young and exciting band
The album kicks off with the chugging 'I Am The Train', previously recorded with the ubiquitous Dickinson brothers on the Candy Store Kid album. It's a great opener, and serves as an introduction to Dutch guitar hotshot Dusty Ciggaar. In the course of the album he displays a variety of styles, but here he starts off in country blues mode, with such a twangy vibe that for a minute I'm transported to a bar in Nashville - but that's another story. His playing on this opening track alone announces Ciggaar as not just a proficient player, but a quirky and imaginative one, his closing solo quoting the riff from Big Joe Turner's 'Honey Hush'.
'Brandy Balloon' is funkier, and while Siegal indulges in the kind of word play that marks him out as a special lyricist, Ciggaar goes to town on what turns into a suspense laden solo. Later, on 'Temporary', a song written by Siegal's Austrian buddy Ripoff Raskolnikov, he lends colour with rippling guitar lines that recall Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, meshing perfectly with Siegal's own understated strumming. (As an aside, to these ears Siegal's guitar and Danny Vant Hoff's bass could often have been a tad further forward in the mix.)
Siegal does demonstrate his own slide skills on 'Early Grace' (its title slightly amended from the studio version on Candy Store Kid). Inspired by the Brad Pitt film Kalifornia, it has a lilting chorus that brings to mind another movie, Crazy Heart, in which the dissolute country singer Bad Blake, played by Jeff Bridges, observes "That's the way it is with good [songs], you're sure you've heard them before."
After acoustic renditions on both Man and Guitar and The Picnic Sessions, Tom Russell’s tragic tale of the fighting rooster ‘Gallo Del Cielo’ gets an electric outing here, underpinned by excellent drumming from Raphael Schwiddessen, skipping and shuffling in response to Ciggaar’s suitably Tex-Mex soloing.
‘Queen of the Junior Prom’, from Siegal’s debut album, showcases his fondness as a lyricist for playing with paradox, and for an acidic tone. There are stronger examples in his catalogue though, such as ‘Curses’ and ‘Catch 22’, and that leads me to my second minor grouch: unfortunately Swagger, the outstanding album from which those tracks come, is completely unrepresented here.
A cover of the Everly Brothers ‘Love Hurts’ is garnished with backing vocals from Joel and Tess Gaerthe, as is the closing ‘Please Don’t Fail Me’. The latter, written by another Dutch pal Rudy Lentze, is a tender, country tinged love song, in a similar vein to Springsteen’s ‘If I Should Fall Behind’, and of similarly high quality. And that’s it for the album proper. As evidenced by this promo video, the bonus download of ‘Hard Pressed’ will round out the set in more muscular fashion, with Siegal unleashing a wicked wah wah solo and showing off his barnstorming growl of a voice. But as it is One Night In Amsterdam continues Ian Siegal’s fine run of form. More power to his elbow.