The debut album from The David Tattersall Group ought to have a nocturnal title. Of the eleven original compositions which start with ‘Bright Moon’. three songtitles reference the night (‘Night Owls’, ‘Drive All Night’ and ‘Since the Night’) and another the evening (‘Fresh Evening Rain’). It is a record that marks a departure from the garage rock sound Tattersall is associated with through his groups, The Wave Pictures and Surfing Magazines. It began as a set of Nylon guitar improvisations in the vein of gypsy jazz player, Django Reinhardt, and stream of consciousness writing. After rehearsals with his band in a small sweaty room, it was recorded on a huge red boat moored on the River Thames with vintage microphones and wooden walls inside. The group playing is spectacular and lands on classic songwriting.

The opening track is an ode to the elements: snow on the mountains and the great outdoors while “crowds of people make me crazy” swept along by delightful country picking, a percussive shuffle and piano embellishment. In contrast, the bittersweet ‘New Beginning’ has all the narrator’s friends leaving but seeking consolation walking by the water to the accompaniment of melancholy violin and stirring piano melody.

Fittingly, ‘My Lovely’ is gorgeous. The first single from the album and one of the songs of 2023 with its sublime blending of Tattersall’s more on the edge vocals with Holly Holden’s golden voice with its resigned introduction, “What did you want from me / you wanted me to change / you must have been deranged /people don’t change”. It feels like a long-standing classic with its lugubrious harmonica, sweeping violin and glorious piano. In fact, the album’s most striking moments are the slowest songs. ‘Since the Night’ starts as a piano ballad before the tender addition of violin and guitar and the acknowledgement “I’ve got love in my house which is why there is love in my songs”. ‘Mellow Magic’ sees reminiscences of a participant coming in dressed like the Tin Man, drinking red wine by the cricket field with Tattersall ruefully admitting to hating the summer now. There is a glorious sadness to the song, a tasteful, raw emotion to the playing and the recognition, “If I wasn’t so wise, I would long ago have gone insane” embodying the conflict of sentiments.

However, the album thrives on changing moods and pacing so ‘Ronnie’ pays tribute to Ronnie Lane in a convivial song of gin drinking and talking till the cows come home, buoyed along by honky-tonk piano. ‘Night Owls’ sees the song’s pairing out on a drive while drinking Irn Brew, eating ham sandwiches, smoking Benson & Hedges and listening to The Clean (only the last part would meet with this reviewer’s approval). The lines “I am a hoot/ and you are a scream” followed by an outburst of hooting fitting the giddy mood of a jovial expedition.

To strummed guitar, ‘The Long Goodbye’ sees him thinking about Leadbelly and reflecting “if I could translate you into English I would retire” before transforming to a violin and guitar picking knees-up. ‘Drive All Night’ has the air of a slowed down ‘Roadrunner’ in its chugging, guitar-led rhythm while the narrative (“the train between my parents separate houses still smells like cider… I was born in 1983 and I started driving not long after”) does not really make sense yet adds to the dream-like night time mood. ‘Fresh Evening Rain’ maintains the tradition of precipitation suggesting melancholy and a reluctance to be alone. The final Tattersall composition, ‘Bluebird’, conjures Appalachian Mountains before ending with whistling and bird song.

The vinyl comes with a downloadable version that concludes with two cover versions, a tremendous stripped back and tender rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Kathleen’ with a deluge of rain and cracks of thunder in the background and another post-sundown selection, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Midnight Lightning’, given a country lullaby reading. It makes for a relaxed ending to an album which ranks as Tattersall’s best yet.

The David Tattersall Group: The David Tattersall Group – Out 6th October 2023 (Bella Union’s Private Pressing label)

David Tattersall Group – My Lovely (Official Video) – YouTube

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.