Gary Hall ‘Warm Valve Glow’ - Northern Son

Another veteran of there UK roots scene who goes back to his days fronting the Stormkeepers, A band whose first release was in 1989. These days he goes under his own name but one player from that time, Mark Wilkinson, still plays with Hall. It was recorded, as was his last album Winning Ways On Losing Streaks, in his own Voodoo Rooms studio. It captures his root orientated sound that incorporates his blend of widescreen roots rock, soul and blues influences with an added touch of celtic mist. Eleven self-written songs that reflect on life with a something of an renewed spirit which, in The Road To God Knows Where, finds him wondering where his life will take him but doing so with the thought that he can ”… still drink from that well that once ran dry”. 

That well seems to be refreshed and he is comfortable delivering these songs with a set of musicians who get the feel right and righteous. He ask for some salvation in Sweet Jesus and writes about his father with some gentle reflection for My Fathers Eyes. Throughout the album Hall’s voice delivers the songs with the conviction of a man who is making music for himself (and his fans). His motivation is to produce music that has meaning for him. This is outside of consideration of trying to fit any particular marketplace. It gives an artist the opportunity to explore music for it’s own sake. In truth Gary Hall is an artist who has  always followed this path but when you start out you are often filled with the hope of reaching a more mainstream audience. 

Those who have listened to his music over the years will not be disappointed with this set of new songs that have grit and the buzz of an vintage valve amp that has an analog warmth and a lasting glow. Gary Hall still keeps the storm in his soul and his vision focused. 

Gary Hall 'Winning Ways on Losing Streaks' - Northern Sun

It's been a good while since I listened to Gary Hall,  either solo or with the Stormkeepers. He was at the forefront of what became along with The Good Sons.  This is his tenth album and from the first song you realise that Hall is a distinctive singer who is immediately recognisable.  He is also a compelling songwriter who has written ten of the songs on the album with two co-writes and a cover of the Bob Dylan/Ketch Secor Wagon Wheel which is rapidly becoming a classic. The album features a full band with a bass and drum basis topped by acoustic instruments including banjo, mandolin and Dobro with various strings added to give the album  mood and merit.

 This produces a  sinuous sound that has electric guitar intertwined with acoustic and topped by Hall's voice and strong backing vocals. This creates an effective directness that keeps the listener's attention throughout. Aside from the immediate recognition of Wagon Wheel the remaining songs tackle loss with I Can't Believe She's Gone and longing with One Step Ahead Of The Blues. The latter is a six minute plus song that has a slide guitar over a robust rhythm and a most convincing vocal. Stick Around Bojangles features a violin motif on a song that wants the good times to roll but warns that the things we think we may want are seldom the things we actually need. A Small Price to Pay is stripped back to voice and guitar and delivers a love song that posits that sacrifice is a necessary part of the process. Red Dirt Roads is a tale of a troubadour's travels. 

These songs are about place, people and the pursuit of dreams. Gary Hall has a voice tinged with soul, Celtic passion and a down-to-earth attitude that gives his songs their heart. Anyone who remembers him from his earlier albums will be happy to hear him again and those who are unacquainted with his previous work will find this is full of reasons that underscore Hall's place in the annals of rewarding UK roots music.