et for release on 20th March 2020 via their own Littlemen Recordings imprint, the record sees the UK roots-rockers come together with a new-look line-up to unfurl 10 tracks of accomplished musicianship and timeless songwriting of the highest calibre.
Though long established as firm favourites on the West Country music scene, from tuning-in to the classic country-rock sound of the LITTLEMEN’s latest you could quite easily be forgiven for thinking you’ve intercepted a broadcast intended to accompany those cruising down the dusty highways of the Western USA. So authentic is their widescreen Americana, new album ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ could almost have been sealed in a time capsule in the mid-seventies, only to be unearthed these decades later as a “forgotten classic” testifying to a bygone and beautiful era.
Exuding the same Californian warmth that radiates through Tom Petty’s immortal recordings, the golden Laurel Canyon harmonies of CSNY and the anthemic Americana-touchstones of Springsteen at his windswept most epic; the Littlemen’s latest effort humbly tips its stetson to the eternal giants of the US rock, folk and country scenes, to deliver an album as at once familiar as your most dog-eared 12 inches, yet as box-fresh and pristinely original as they come.
Close your eyes and be swept away by album openers ‘Girl In The Red Blouse’ and ‘Moving On’, tracks that grow like the Colorado river towards its delta; from yawning pedal steels and laidback last-dance introductions, to cacophonic E-Street Band-inspired sax and guitar solo crescendos. Elsewhere, the sugar-coated acoustic strum of numbers like ‘Walking’ and ‘Feel The Heat’ bring to mind Faces favourites and Van Morrison’s melancholia, and provide some of the albums most beautifully pop, yet bittersweet offerings. The violin led ‘Twist of Fate’ and the joyful jig of ‘Into The Sea’ even make room to display the band’s celtic influences.
Though, it’s perhaps lyrically, where the album truly comes into its own. ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ sees frontman Nick Allen spill his heart on a splay of emotive issues from the global to the personal, offering the listener plenty to pore over and much to get misty-eyed about. On ‘Front Page News‘, Allen stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the feminsit movement and makes a firm standpoint against the objectification of women in the media; whereas elsewhere Allen reflects tenderly on first loves (‘The Girl With The Read Blouse’), lost loves (‘Moving On’), the love we share with our pets (‘Cat Song’), and even forbidden love, as on the album’s impassioned: ‘Feel The Heat’. “Feel the Heat is about two people in love who were separated by a country splitting into two when they separated by the Berlin wall” says Nick, of a track whose message seems all too resonant in the current political climate.
Perhaps most striking of all are ‘Walking’, ‘The First Time’ and ‘Obstacles‘, a triptych of tender country rock ballads of the highest and most-heartfelt order; each of which see Nick open-up about a calamitous motorcycle accident some years ago that has left him wheelchair bound to this very day. “‘Walking’ is about My Mother and all mothers who will give their life to heal their children, my mother’s prayer every night was for God to take her life for me to be able to walk again” he confesses. The track is directly followed by two others that see Nick earnestly reflect on the things so many of us no doubt take for granted. ‘The First Time’, a waltzing two-step number that finds Nick daydreaming of standing on his own feet again to “look into a girl’s eyes and hold her”; followed by the pillowy-hued ‘Obstacles‘, tellingly about the difficulties experienced through a lifetime in a wheelchair and the sense of longing “to be able to walk again” that comes hand in hand with it. A window to the soul, together the trio make for a wistful, yet magnanimous centre-piece to the record that is sure to tremor even the most courageous of hearts.
An extraordinary album, created by a band no-less ordinary; from a brief look at the Littlemen’s individual CVs, it quickly becomes apparent how ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ could come together as it has. Writing and performing through numerous guises their entire lives, the Littlemen are seasoned veterans of music and well-versed in studio ingenuity and sonic expertise. In drummer, ROBERT BRIAN they have a Grammy award winning rhythm consultant; a man who’s remarkable career trajectory has included lending his talents to Siouxsie Sioux, Goldfrapp, Miles Kane, Peter Gabriel & Simple Minds, as well as more recently recording and circling the globe with Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt. Then there’s stellar guitar duties from MARK GRIFFIN, a multi-instrumentalist and renowned sound guru. Picking up those bass guitar duties is TYLER SPICER, a man who currently lends his talents to U.K. ‘Country Artist of the Year’: Danny McMahon’s band, when he’s not laying down licks for the Littlemen that is. Lead guitar comes courtesy of GUY TOWNLEY, another venerated multi-instrumentalist, as talented as he is popular. And then, completing the current line-up, is the newly appointed frontman NICK ALLEN, a songwriter already known to many in the music biz who has been applauded and admired as a proven songwriter, manager, studio owner and conceptual thinker.
Although there has been a previous ensemble known as LITTLEMEN who have released various singles, a much-lauded album (“LONG ROAD HOME”), and garnered radio play, Nick may have joined this incarnation of the band most recently, but from the quality of songwriting illustrated on ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’, the impact of his signature lyricism, optimistic outlook and ear for a robust hook have been transformative in delivering the band’s long-awaited new album; and one that is hopefully the first of many more ‘Beautiful Things’ to come.
All songs on ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ were written by Nick Allen at his home in Wiltshire in 2019. All tracks were recorded at the famous NAM Studios (that has housed KT Tunstall, The Mission, Killing Joke, Royal Blood and many more) and Omen Audio, with production by Mark Griffin and Littlemen. Littlemen would also like to thank all the previous Littlemen and those who have helped in the past, including Phil Parson at Philip Parsons Media Solutions and Dave King Photography.
In support of the new album, Littlemen played a one-off live date at Bath Komedia this January in support of Independent Venue Week, in which they will be showcased their new-look line-up and tracks from ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ live for the first time. Writing, rehearsing and recording constantly, Littlemen will be appearing at a venue near you very soon.
A loving nod to a golden age of heart’n’soul songwriting not-quite forgotten, and a joyous reminder of the hair-on-end sounds that can only flow from a band of skilled musicians recording in unison; ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’ is a record out-of-time and of endless reward.
LITTLEMEN – WILL RELEASE: ‘IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING’ – 20 MARCH 2020
‘IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING’ – TRACK LISTING
- The Girl With The Red Blouse
- Moving On
- For The First Time
- Feel The Heat
- Twist Of Fate
- Front Page News
- Into The Sea
- Cat Song
- Obstacles Remix (Strawberry Popsical Mix)
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