Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Connor Selby - Connor Selby

Connor Selby is a talented young fella.  There’s plenty of evidence for that on this self-titled album, which was first released in 2021 and is now coming out in a Deluxe edition via Provogue Records, with four bonus tracks.  But there’s also evidence of room for further development.
Let’s start with the positives.  The kid – he’s only about 23 – has evidently immersed himself in some of the legends of bluesy, jazzy and soulful sounds from a young age, and come out the other end capable of writing some decent tunes in that vein.  Among the best things here are ‘Hear My Prayer’ and ‘Waitin’ For The Day’, both of which carry echoes of Van Morrison in their melodies, their soulfulness, and the easy-going piano elements.  The former features conversational verses, and tasteful female backing vocals helping Selby to give a lift to the chorus, plus a good
Connor Selby does some open air woodshedding
Pic by Rob Blackham
example of Selby’s pitch perfect guitar soloing, while the latter is one of the strongest songs on the album.  Elsewhere, ‘If You’re Gonna Leave Me’ has a bluesy guitar intro, but then leans into a Nina Simone-like jazzy feel, most particularly through its piano part, before Selby comes up with an interestingly squelchy solo towards the end.  And ‘I Shouldn’t Care’ brings to mind BB King, or maybe Sean Costello in mellow mood, with a good quick-quick-slow guitar solo and a mild surge of energy via the organ as it progresses.
The best thing here though, is ‘Emily’, and for a variety of reasons.  It kicks off with a fuzzy riff that incorporates an intricate little twirl, and has more energy about it than anything else on offer.  There are waves of organ, bigger drums than are to be heard elsewhere, and more female backing vocals to help create a big sound that its chorus deserves.  Selby comes up with a stinging guitar solo, and one of his stronger vocals, and the sense of a crescendo late on justifies its six minute running time.
But a few more helpings of that kind of snap, crackle and pop wouldn’t go amiss.  For one thing, there’s a tendency for songs to be overstretched, as on ‘The Man I Ought To Be’ and ‘Anyhow’ to name just two examples.  Both songs have some good elements, but they’re both slow, and subdued, and with the former in particular I’ve had about enough after four of its seven minutes.
What’s more, it often feels like Connor Selby’s middle name could be ‘Languour’.  It’s not just that several songs drag on too long, but that Selby’s preference is to be mellow, laid back and reflective, a tendency underlined by his vocal style. The opening ‘I Can’t Let You Go’ typifies the way his singing leans towards a smooth drawl, to the point where sometimes he lapses into a half-singing, half-speaking approach that’s prone to dilute the melody.  To be fair though, his phrasing is always good, and as the album progresses there are numerous examples of him rousing himself to offer a bit more vocal energy and soulfulness.
But then maybe this vocal torpor is a product of the lyrics, because on that score Selby’s default setting seems to be “lovelorn”.  I mean, I know songs shouldn’t always be regarded as autobiography, and just as well, because otherwise you’d have to reckon Connor Selby has a very unfortunate time with girls.
So yeah, it would be good if young Connor could cheer up a bit, and order a stack of extra beats per minute from Amazon as well.  But still, the musicianship, arrangements and sound in evidence here are all impressive.  And the boy can and does play some damn fine guitar too, with an excellent sense of how to serve the song.  Connor Selby is a decent calling card, and I look forward to more balance and variety next time around.
Connor Selby (Deluxe Edition) is released by Provogue Records on 3 March, and can be ordered here

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