It’s no coincidence that the new album by Chris Cleverly is released the day after World Mental Health Day. It’s the fundamental message throughout ‘We Sat Back and Watched It Unfold’ – a reminder that there is a new tomorrow, and everything will be ok. He knows. He’s been there. This album is a personal recollection and reassurance that there is life after poor mental health. Sometimes you just have to sit back and watch it unfold.

‘The Arrow and the Armour’ takes us into the realms of pagan shamanism, seeking out the high priestess and high mountain solitude to deal with stomach-churning anxiety and low self-esteem. The tin whistle adds a Celtic twist.

Cleverly’s finger-plucking guitar style is expertly offered in ‘The Scarlet Letter’, a song about the lure of strangers and olde world lust, and the scorching mark of the social outcast. Clearly a nod to the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic novel, ‘The Scarlet Letter’, it is a folk tale beautifully sung and played. Lesson learned, a woman is scorned.

‘I Can’t Take It’ is basically about the reticence to take a drug that would wipe out all memory for evermore. Would you take it?

In sickness and in health, much of the album’s theme is the state of our National Health Service, and the bland sickening of modern-day living; social media and all that rot. It’s a kind of “outside looking in” social commentary. Truths well told through song, melody, and lyrical ballads.

The title track, ‘We Sat Back and Watched It Unfold’ is probably about the untruths of the referendum campaign, as people were fooled into believing that money would be pumped into the NHS. Here, Cleverly cleverly asks how lo and behold, we sat and watched it unfold. As bystanders we are powerless. As an artist, Cleverly can sing out about it. Great song.

‘A Voice For Those Who Don’t Have One’ is an appeal to those affected by mental health issues, to take the meds, to find good grace, with a little help from your friends, to get back on your own two feet. Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and someone needs to speak up for those who don’t have a voice.

The theme of speaking up and out on social issues continues in ‘Happy and Proud’, an anthem of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. ‘The Ones Like Ourselves’ is a further call to those who feel cast out from society and living life on the margins, or touched by the desire to live a reclusive life, outwith the confines of conventionality.

‘Madame Moonshine’ is one of my favourite tracks. It’s a dark, cautionary tale of the seedier side of life, secrets and spies, selling the soul into debauchery, freak shows, curses, esoteric dark arts, ritual sacrifice and opium dens. Followed by ‘In A Dreamlike State’, an overview of a medically drug-induced fate, Cleverly clearly has a way with words, an ability to catch so much emotion, reality, and honesty in a twist of the tongue.

Twelve original beautifully, cleverly crafted melodies and folk tunes, ‘We Stood Back and Watched It Unfold’ is available now on Opiate Records. Highly recommended.