- by Kevin Orton Release Date: Label:
The late great Ian Lowery was best known as the front man for the infamous, Folk Devils. A furious mix of Punk, Blues and Country that self-destructed far too soon. And while Lowery was not destined for stardom, he worked ferociously under the radar and two of his solo albums demand to be heard: Get Out the Sun and Ironic. Ironic will be covered in another review, for now let’s focus on Get Out the Sun.
The opening title track greets you like a runaway train. Lowery, your sneering conductor. It has all the snarl and bite of Folk Devils. “You practice, they preach, you learn, they teach,” he chants. ‘Born to Swing’ follows, like a right hook. It’s a rousing start to a brilliant album bursting with passion.
On the Bluesy, ‘Bent & Rusted Crown’, Lowery takes a self-deprecating swing at himself. It’s the kind of music you wish Iggy Pop was making all these years. Hard hitting and no nonsense without a hint of self-consciousness. Lowery has nothing to prove and nothing to loose. “Bent & rusty crown,” Lowery grouses, “Hanging over one eye, I couldn’t shine it if I tried.”
All of which makes the gorgeous ballad, ‘Beauty Lies’ so unexpected. Here’s a side of Lowery you never saw in the Folk Devils. It’s a love song. One full of yearning, world weary yearning. “Tell me some lies,” Lowery, says off the cuff, as the song soars to its climax.
‘Deluge’ is another, more bitter ballad. “You can cry till your heart breaks,” Lowery dourly sings over grumpy guitars. Ghostly female backing vocals provide stark contrast to a song spoiling for a fight. Then without warning, you have the pastoral acoustic guitar of ‘Still I Look Up’. It’s pure, unadorned folk music. The kind Roy Harper and Nick Drake used to cut. A defiantly optimistic number on an album still holding a grudge with the world.
The beginning of ‘Time Is Gone’ lures you into thinking another ballad is in store, but instead socks you right between the eyes. Production wise, its sounds like something off the first Smiths album. Just the right bit of damp, grey day.
The acoustic guitar is back for ‘Straight Man’ which is one of Get Out the Sun’s most effective numbers. It’s a heartfelt rumination on the effort to stay sober, sung in a voice that can only be described as a swaggering sneer. It’s a brilliant, moving song. Worth the price of admission alone.
It’s a brief respite, soon after, ‘Distant Trains’ and an underhand ‘Sucker Punch’ await you. But all is not so bleak once you’re standing at the ‘Water’s Edge’. Here Lowery dusts off his Pop smarts for a wistful bit of ennui and self-reflection. In another world, this could have been a hit. It all goes to show there’s riches in store for you, if you just look under the radar. If I were sequencing the album, this is where I would end it but ‘Let’s Go’ is the kind of song worthy of a late career Lou Reed and ‘If I Could Sleep Forever’ is most welcome. If Get Out the Sun began with a bang, it ends with a growl. More than any track, ‘Fingerknot’ sounds more like a tacked on demo. That's not to say it isn't great. The Rockabilly guitar harping back to his Devils' days.
Without a doubt, Ian Lowery is one of those cult artists deserving of a wider audience. Full of piss, vinegar and heart. In terms of delving into his talents beyond, Folk Devils, Get Out The Sun is the perfect place to start.