Best known as the lead vocalist of folk rockers Man the Lifeboats, Richard James' Quarterman’s solo release ‘Carondelet’ finds him in a laid-back, introspective mood as he mines deep into his songwriting archives to deliver nine original new songs in a distinctly stripped-back low key manner.
Taking inspiration from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, and many more, Quarteman’s songs feature dreamy melodies with subject matter and places that are replete with gritty realism.
The opening track ‘The Old Chinese Takeaway Called Happiness’ describes events born out of a new relationship, dog walking, and an actual takeaway restaurant. Similarly, the ukulele and harmonica in the protest song ‘Outsiders’ continues an Americana theme in a song that calls for kindness to be used as a weapon against oppression.
‘Bonnie’, with its delicate guitar picking, nods to English landscapes, and soft harmonies, has hints of the early works of Roy Harper. The lyrics hint at change and freedom at a cost. Yet, the identity of the subject of the song is cleverly ambiguous; a lover, a friend, or the dog in the video?
Teaming up with producer Jamie Evans, Quarterman re-kindled a childhood friendship as they recorded in Evans’ home studio on the very street that both of them grew up on together. Evans also brings additional instrumentation to the record with ukulele, guitar, and double bass augmenting and enhancing Quarteman’s arrangements.
Travel is another enduring theme on the album. ‘Carondelet’ finds inspiration from a trip to New Orleans while ‘On The Overwhelming Sadness Of Gravity’ has its roots in the city of Dublin. Nights spent with friends in London pubs provide the inspiration and stories for the fictional pub in ‘The Caledonian’. Celebrating nights and mishaps we have all experienced, the song also provides a tribute to an industry and community that was struggling before the pandemic closed many pubs for good.
‘Carondelet’ features a lovely collection of songs that use half-memories, real-life experiences, and urban landscapes to create beautiful vignettes into everyday life that resonate deep and long with the listener.