Alf Hale “Everyone Wants You To Fail” (Independent, 2007)
Dark croonings, deep understanding and melancholic moments
In a dark velvet voice Alf Hale croons “There is a highway somewhere/you’ll find the one you’ve waited for” over a lush and stately backing, and the stage is set for one of the most unusual albums of the year. Apparently Hale is something of a Bristolian legend, having played with grungers Valve and little-bit-of-everything The Marys for ever, but it’s doubtful that anything can have prepared fans of those bands for his solo debut. It owes more in musical style to dinner-jacketed crooners like Tony Bennett than anything else, but there are also hints of Nick Cave’s sonorous tones, though Hale is much more melodic, and even some Neil Diamond (“Better Make It Good” starts off exactly like “Cracklin’ Rose”). But we’re not talking Mike Flowers here, Hale is nothing if not serious and his delivery suits his material perfectly, allowing his songs to have much more impact than if they were presented in a banshee wail or a mumbling monotone. When he sings “when you love someone it cuts deep” it’s a sentiment you’ve heard a million times before but here it sounds fresh, new and possessed of a desperate beauty that you thought had long since fled something so obvious. Hale’s empathy with and understanding of the little tragedies of everyday life shines through, whether on the title track’s slow sympathy for the girl who has it all and is hated for it, the post-relationship message that is “No Sleep For The Wicked” or the more musically upbeat and even slightly bouncy tale of an alcoholism-blighted relationship “Cry All Your Life”. They really don’t make them like this anymore, but with albums this good Hale could be the advance guard of a new trend.
Date review added: Sunday, July 01, 2007
Reviewer: Jeremy Searle
Related web link: Alf Hale MySpace site