Folk and country as genres have always been associated with honesty. The lyrics that make up folk and country songs are usually true stories from the songwriter’s own experience, and musical arrangements are usually made to augment these stories. In fuller arrangements, sometimes the meaning can be lost.
Graham Nicholas is just such an honest songwriter. The meanings of songs are clear and the arrangements never feel overwhelming. There are two major themes present in the album. The first should be somewhat obvious from the album title; there’s definitely a preoccupation with death. The other theme is a common but timeless one: keeping and losing love.
The first two songs deal with death in two very different ways. “Blue Of Noon” is a simple song melodically- just an acoustic guitar and two vocalists who harmonize for the entire song. This is one of the best songs on the album hands down in the way that Nicholas deals with death- death is depicted as a woman who simply comes to town and claims what’s rightfully hers. The way she is talked about shows that no one is powerful enough to stop her; instead people just accept that she appears. She also apparently doesn’t like to drink alone.
The title track, meanwhile, is a lot more whimsical. The narrator wants to tell his son “Forget about being a lawyer” and for him to “grab his fishing pole and re-read Tom Sawyer.” The song is a bit of a hootenanny, quite the change from the slightly hopeless tone of the previous song. It even features a pretty sweet banjo solo.
Love (whether lost or found) is dealt with over the arc of the next few songs. “Keepin’ My Soul Alive” talks of the lovesick man: “‘Cause my heart is blind to the things you do,” Nicholas sings. “Six Chambered Love Letter” is a fuller-band number that completely changes direction in the last minute. “Love By the Dime” struck me as exceedingly genuine, though I can’t place my finger on why.
The latter half of the album holds up well on its own, with several songs featuring kickass harmonica such as “Books Not Bombs” and “Kids in the Hall.” Another great song is “Her Name Was Rock and Roll” which sounds like a really upbeat singalong thanks to the background vocals. “Feels Like Faith” showcases an uncommon power in Nicholas’ vocals, and the album ends nicely with “Big Biscuits.”
Rarely do I encounter an album that feels like I’m reading into the songwriter’s soul, but this is definitely one of those times. You can download every song on Bury Me Beneath the Dance Floor for free from Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Blue of Noon”; “Love by the Dime”; “Her Name Was Rock and Roll”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)