Anyone who knows me or knows my work knows I have a long serving love, as a fan, of the Sheffield band Outroads. You can check out many of the videos I have done for them on this site and it was an honour in 2009 to have produced and directed their debut Live DVD – The Dog & Lantern (available via their Bandcamp page I may add!). Years later I was excited to hear of the long awaited new album, and it’s finally arrived. “I Am Happy” is launched on Feb 15th, but I was fortunate enough to get a pre-release copy which I volunteered to write a review for….and as far as I know, this is the first review of the new album. I’m not a music critic, but here goes….
Sounding at first like a significant departure from the previous offerings, “I Am Happy” remains truly Outroads. Indeed, when viewed in chronological order, from the debut LP “Goodbye To All That”, to the EP “Only The Lonely?”, this latest collection of truly warming, yet often challenging songs feels like its continuing to smooth away some outer surfaces of a core. Searching for truth or meaning, and having a bloody good sing and dance along the way!
Reading the liner notes, its interesting to see so many Outroads regulars performing on this album (and some new ones!) yet the sounds, harmonies and paths seem like brave new territory. Again, a comforting centre venturing through new lands. New for us as listeners anyway. Probably brewing for some time in their heads and hearts and now pushed slowly out from the shadows of life for us all to point at, stare at, listen to…and love.
I love this album. Speaking as a fan, hearing a new Outroads album, and not instantly hearing a repeat of previous work is refreshing. In an age where the “industry” around music has become something I don’t recognise (or want to!) “I Am Happy” makes me beam with optimism. It reminds me that music is still out there. Music is still a worthy art. Music can still bring new emotions, and bookmark times in your life to be remembered through song…forever…and now no one can ever take these songs away from me! They have already started to seep into my points of reference and begin to stretch back, like I can’t even remember not having them around. They also make me ponder on future times and be excited about where these notes, chords, picks, plucks, hums and screams will end up later in this listeners life. Timeless music…with a bouncy melody to boot!
I don’t really want to try and break down this album, track by track, as I feel it would spoil the journey. But I do feel compelled to completely spoil the ending. The albums final track “I Will Walk With You” is the most sublime song I have yet to hear from Outroads. A song that had me in tears, for no reason I could explain. To further make my point on Outroads songs sinking into, and marking, life itself, I could instantly hear this lullaby-like song being sung by me, and sentimentalised to my child I don’t even have yet, as they lay sleeping…and to my wife thereafter. Overly attached listener? Overly sentimental? Absolutely. This is a wonderful album that, on first listen might not seem familiar. This is possibly its strongest trait.
This is blues. Not in the sound, not in the technique or structure, not even in the style. But Outroads second album, “I Am Happy”, for this listener, has the soul of blues music. In spades. This music both points at, and consoles, the internal, emotional conflicts that everyone feels at some time in life. This is music that belongs on the streets, in all weathers. It offers the milkman, builder, grocer, office worker, taxi driver, business woman, shop worker, bin man, housewife and restaurant worker the ability to sing or skip along, on the way to work, while subconsciously contemplating the deeper meanings of the love, life, loss, hopes and dreams of the every day working man and woman. This IS life. This is blues. Whether it sounds like it or not!