Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: Three Small Things by Chris Ridgeway

Image of Three Small Things

Chris Ridgeway has sung his share of songs in this neck of the woods. He's been a part of numerous Cardiff acts - most notably Cakehole Presley - but Three Small Things is the first album to bear his name and his name alone. These eleven songs find Ridgeway looking back on his life so far and trying to establish what he's learned along the way.

It's a nice concept, and you do get a real sense of growing up as you make your way through the record. Track one, the rousing Bluebirds Are Blue, comes across as a note to the Chris Ridgeway of Christmas Past; a recently-dumped teenager, perhaps, who needs to be reminded that heartbreak does not equal the end of the world. Later on, we hit upon more mature themes, like self-improvement (Learn to Behave) and struggling to make a relationship work (Oceans Apart). The lovely title track brings things to close, and it's the most grown-up song of all, ending the album with a 'no man is an island' kind of moral. While life can sometimes be an uphill struggle, it's made significantly easier by the love and encouragement of others.

So Three Small Things gets two thumbs up for lyrical content - what about the music? Chris Ridgeway is very good at genre-hopping, but some hops land more soundly than others. For example, I really like Kiss Your Forehead - a fun foray into gypsy music that arrives about one-third of the way through the album and seems to represent life in your early twenties, where every day is another adventure. Conversely, I find the boogie-woogie Borderline kind of uninteresting, like the sort of thing you'd hear on Jools Holland's NYE programme. I'm no fan of If I Ever See You Again, either; it's too long and it clogs up the middle of the album something awful.

But let's not focus on the negatives. A lot of the genre experiments work very well. not least the brass-assisted catharsis of of Learn to Behave and the spiritual, 'swing low, sweet chariot'-esque Don't Wanna Hurt No More. Three Small Things - rather like life itself - has its ups and downs, but its a strong album that really does take you on a journey. I like Ridgeway's voice, too - it's raspy, but in a rather friendly-sounding way.

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