"Dustbowl Blues with a Glasgow kick” says the promo material that arrived with John Alexander’s latest album Rain For Sale. It's a perfect description because despite this unlikely geographic conflict he has conjured up a CD that has gone a long way to restoring my faith in genuine grass roots music.
There's no fancy over production where the band only meet on the 'net, this is, in the words of another notable Glaswegian, Alex Harvey, “Gamblin Bar Room Blues.” Real down to earth, down at heel, genuinely heartfelt blues.
Once you delve a little deeper you can see that John Alexander’s journey took a few twists and turns that clearly made an impression on his musical development. Trained as a classical guitarist in his native Scotland he soon found himself succumbing to the lure of the blues.
Travelling to the southern hemisphere he set up home in New Zealand, Christchurch on the South Island to be precise. It was while he was there that he released his debut album Waiting For Now. It was a rustic mix of blues, folk, and country blues that had clearly soaked up a lot of what he had heard on his travels down under and also during a trip across America.
After he had moved back to Glasgow he set about working the circuit. He has recently opened for Newton Faulkner gaining many accolades along the way. His music radiates an earthy, gritty reality with deep thinking lyrics during which his observations on life are set expertly aside his cool guitar picking style.
Rain For Sale continues along that road radiating powerful sonic images of life’s highs and lows in a mistily, wistful journey underpinned by his determination to survive.
The album opens with the “yellow moon and hound dogs” of the gently sloping slide guitar of “Making Waves”. The dark, bleak “Skin” sets the intensity that the majestic “Silver & Blue”, available as a single, continues. This is a song of passionate beauty that is expertly picked out.
“Carry Me Home” is the world weary voice of a guy who has been kicked about by life but with the ability to put those lessons into words.There is a sense of heartfelt pain on tracks such as the superb “Going Gone”. This is a song dangerously loaded with enough melancholy to leave you contemplating those episodes in your life that you really wished hadn’t happened.
He doesn’t let you off the hook with the dark clouds that hover in and around “Let Me Die”. “Bridge Of Kings” and “Rakaia” arrive as Americana country styled ballads that make the whole geography of it all totally meaningless.
Meanwhile, “Sway” underlines his song writing ability in a warm glow of waltzing late night reflection. “Nowhere To Go” and the lovely “Saints & Sinners” sit together effortlessly and gently lead the way for the country blues of the closing track “Early Rise”.
With top drawer lyrics, quality song-writing, superb guitar playing and genuine vocals Rain For Sale hits all the targets several times over. Recommended.