(5 / 5)
Gorgeous. Lovely. Beautiful. But enough about me!
Seriously, this record really is a wonderful job and showcases singer-songwriter Daniel Gadd’s considerable triple talents in the very, very best way possible. As a singer, as a writer of songs and as a guitarist, he’s a rather special find. For sure.
Cape Town, South African born, 27-year-old Daniel lived in Spain for a year before stowing away on a cargo ship to make it to London, where he has lived ever since. He qualified in composition at the University of Cape Town and then in scoring for film, television & video games at Berklee College of Music in Spain. Now an accomplished composer of film scores for shorts and full length films, he has worked with ballet companies too and has had the pleasure of writing for and conducting huge orchestras.
But you can hear his heart belongs here, as a world class solo artist. What I find remarkable is the stripped down aspect of this album doesn’t once cry out for more in the way of instruments or production. Nowhere to hide whatsoever as a singer. Here we get a voice, an acoustic guitar and a light smattering of folkie-harmonica licks. That’s it. Oh, and eight really accomplished songs. Songs that are brought to life and lifted off the page by this warm, addictive, gentle, calming and Premier Division vocal.
Great singers serve the song. Same can be said about the musical accompaniment and arrangement. Daniel’s mesmerising vocal and his simple yet gloriously sensitive and flavoursome guitar technique does just that.
For such an accomplished debut, it is surprising this is Daniel’s first album. I note on Amazon, this was first available in digital only format, back in December 2015 and January 2016, the same tracks but in a slightly different order as to what is on the physical CD. Far too good to be left there, so it gets its proper release in CD and digital format now, with a big gig launch in London on 13th November at the stunning St Pancras Old Church. A perfect setting for such an artist and such intimate and fragile songs.
Two experienced London-based music promoters Chris and Mal, caught this guy singing and playing in an intimate little venue one night and were blown away. Here’s their story and how come this record gets its full release in November 2017.
“We heard Daniel Gadd by pure chance. A flickering neon sign occupied a corner of the stage. Daniel took to the stage. He plays guitar and sings. We happened to be there. Immediately we began to listen. That dark basement in central London, a haven far from the concerns of people on the streets above, was the best place to be in London that night. The audience was spellbound. And then just as he seemed to be finishing up, someone shouted out ‘one more’. ‘Okay, thanks…is it okay if I do one more?’, asked Daniel, wondering for a moment, not sure if it was. The venue booker by the door, did not hesitate and nodded the go-ahead. Daniel played on. And we were very glad to be there.
“It turned out that Daniel Gadd had somehow got to London via Spain, and he had been in London for a year. He composes and scores for film, and also works as a film composer’s assistant, during the daytime. At night he likes to play gigs. He’d even recorded an album of songs by the sea at Kalk Bay, a small fishing village that’s become part of Cape Town. But he hadn’t known what to do next. Well, we said, we love your music, so let’s meet up soon. A few days later we met Daniel at Foyles bookstore café at 107 Charing Cross Road, in London.
“The album he’d mentioned, is his remarkable debut. As ‘If In A Dream I Drifted At Sea’ will now be released on CD and digital, through Cargo. Daniel named his label ‘107 Recordings’ in recognition of the Foyles meeting, where the idea for the release of this album was born…”
Don’t ya just love the fickle hand of fate. Right place, right time. Stars align. Paths cross and magic happens. The two guys Daniel is now working with are very experienced and passionate about bringing great music and great artists to the attention of the media and the public. They have much success with many other superb singer songwriters, so Daniel is in safe hands. In Daniel and this record, I believe they have stumbled across one of, if not the very best artists they will have worked with thus far, with huge potential to win global acclaim.
For these songs to sit there gathering digital dust for nearly two years is a bloody travesty. For this guy to be virtually unknown as an artist outside of a few small acoustic venues in that there London truly is a crime. Not for much longer…
The only negative here is that we only get eight tracks and a duration of just 33.30. Another four dozen would have done me nicely! All eight songs penned and produced by Daniel.It will be filed under folk, but that’s not the sum of its parts by any means. It’s a far broader church than that. He nods heavily to his main influences Dylan, Paul Simon and perhaps Leonard Cohen with the dose of melancholy. His core values are not too far away from the likes of greats such as Nick Drake, Tim Hardin, Tim Rose (as a writer), James Taylor and the majorly under appreciated Donovan. But as I said earlier, there’s a fair bit of Dylan about this boy. But Daniel has a much sweeter, gentler and less abrasive voice by far.
The first single from the album, “Siri Linn” is released on 20th October and opens the album very, very nicely. His voice and the brush strokes on guitar grab your attention from the off and do not let go until the very last note on track eight. Never a dip in quality of the writing or the performance.
“Some Time Ago (On A Cold Winter Night)” is a tad “Strawberry Fair” in structure, the vocal phrasing and the guitar chords. Lovely stuff. “Rolling On” is the first glimpse of his Dylan-esque abilities. “Sleep Turns Her Face,” features the first burst of harmonica, and the song is in a laid back Dylan and Donovan vibe. To be honest, I felt the brashness of the harmonica sometimes disturbed the serenity of the voice and the guitar, and would not have been missed.
“The Trail I’m Tracking” couldn’t get more tranquil if it tried; like waves lapping onto a peaceful shore on some far off island. The yearning in his voice for this lost love he is trying to track down is palpable. Heartbreak and longing never sounded so good. “Just Like The Road”, “So Long Old Friend” and “Someways Down A Highway”, as classy as the previous five cuts.
He writes and sings a lot about the weather, the sea, nature and the road. His way with words displays the skill of a poet and natural story teller. I get the feeling this entire collection was inspired by a hard-to-bear break up, and the sadness and soul searching that followed. But he’s wrapped up the standard song writers’ fodder of “she’s gone” and “woe is me”, into quite beautiful prose that makes me dearly wish I could write like he does. All of these songs emotionally connect, and his gifts both as songwriter and as a singer are innate.
This is not’ just another’ singer songwriter album, by any means. To do anything less than shout from the rooftops about this man and his music, would be doing him a grave injustice. But as I am not very good with heights, I’ll do it here at my desk on Terra firma. “Go buy it. Go see a show. Tell him I sent you. You can thank me later”.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’