Singer songwriters still remain constant in North America, and folk traditions have been revisited as groups like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers managed to revive acoustic ballads. But the tradition seems to constantly be overshadowed by tendencies to move towards more marketable genres. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, artists like Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn are among the many musicians billed for the seemingly endless line up of music festivals aimed at the persevering a pocket of folk tradition. Many of these artists continue to carry on essential qualities in the singer-song writer persona and reminisce of earlier musicians and the legacy they left on folk music. Charlie Cunningham’s sound emulates this tradition with his new album ‘Lines.’
The opening track ‘An Opening’ effectively sets the stage for all that Cunningham is capable of. The simple layers built from the acoustic guitar balancing between minor and major tones, Cunningham’s honest voice, and the emergence of a brief build up synthesizers, all come together as a worthy opening track.
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Moving forward, Cunningham struggles to find the exceptional sound he found in ‘An Opening.’ The next songs, ‘I can be’ (a song which simply allows the vocals to follow the guitar’s simple melody), and ‘Born’, fall short in finding a definitive sound. What saves Cunningham through these tracks and through the entirety of the album, is his voice: it candidly exposes his passion and connection with each song.
But ‘Lines’ quickly re-establishes itself with tracks like ‘Lines’, ‘Lights off’, and ‘Minimum’ (perhaps one of the finest songs on the album) which demonstrate Cunningham’s range as he explores the use of electronic instrumentals, and establishes himself as a song writer capable of harmonising his vocals with a dynamic guitar.
Musically, the album comes together well and is, all in all, a good album. Cunningham proves himself to be a skilled musician with his command over the guitar, and his exploration of electronic tones and affects. Lyrically, however, Cunningham fails to match the abilities of more prominent singer songwriters. Often depending on clichés or repetitive and plain rhyming schemes, Cunningham has yet to prove himself a poet through the album ‘Lines.’ More exploration of themes outside of love and guidance would help Cunningham in pursuing greater lyrical content. His voice is certainly honest, but one can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied with lyrics as he tends to remain along all too repetitive themes that are common among too many artists, within pop or elsewhere. And in that being said, Cunningham has yet to display a truly original piece of work.
Cunningham’s first attempt demonstrates his potential as a musician. But his debut album fails to achieve anything remarkable. Undoubtedly his talents are almost certainly better appreciated live, however, ‘Lines’ will not persevere against time in the ongoing process of artistic exploration.
‘Lines’ is out now via DumontDumont Records.