Notes From Overground
Nigel Stonier was recently named as a favourite songwriter by iconic Oscar nominated writer Neil Gaiman, who described his work as ‘quirky, and literary in all the right ways’.
During the six years since his last solo album, he has not exactly been idle, producing three albums for Thea Gilmore, writing Erin Rocha’s top 40 hit “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” and hooking up with some of the established names above as well as producing and developing newer acts such as Radio 2 favourites Katy Lied and The Martin Harley Band.
But the absence from solo activity has not been co-incidental, and the shifting moods and heavily personal feel to “Notes From Overground” are well founded… Stonier lived through the deaths of several family members, a separation then subsequent reconciliation and marriage to Thea Gilmore, and the birth of his first child in 2006.
No wonder then that “Notes From Overground” presents a turbulent but fulfilling journey.
Notes From Overground is co-produced by Nigel with his regular studio collaborator and friend Mike Cave (Charlatans, The Coral, Rox)
The opening “Season Of Thunder” is an angry, edgy paean to the darker global events of the early 21st century, taking a swathe to warmongering politicians, the evangelist right and simultaneously catching consumer culture in its swirl at the same time…
Stonier – who plays most of the instruments on the album – rams the point home with fierce, howling guitar. But even through the darker moments of “Notes From Overground” humour is never far away, and barely has the opening track died before we’re into “Whole Lotta Nothin’ Goin’ On” an acidic but hilarious account of a music industry party.
The album moves swiftly through some lived-in love songs (including the glorious “Man Overboard” which with its ringing Rickenbacker 12 string sounds like the comeback hit The Searchers never managed) and the witty “Nearly Man” but ultimately resolves in a suite of personal songs for which Stonier settles on his acoustic guitar and strips things down to a minimum, complementing his intimate vocal style with viola and harmonium.
“Lamplighter’s Song” is an understated but chilling jotting on bereavement and life cycles, then “Girl Sailing” anticipates impending fatherhood with a mix of elated anticipation and peculiarly male fear.
“Set You Free” is an understated guitar/harmonica salute to a newly arrived child and the closing “Union Street” sees Stonier celebrating re-marriage and new beginnings with the combination of honesty and dry wit which have marked his lyric writing down the years and over the course of this album.
With “Notes From Overground” Nigel Stonier rises above comfortable stereotyping, finds a rich vein of writing form – and free of the long list of special guest musicians who have contributed to his last two records, lyrically and instrumentally presents a unified and personalised vision, a set of very grown-up musings about life, love and even death — which may feel mature and lived in but are never complacent or trite. His step out of the shadows is a welcome one.