On the poppier side of Americana – or should that be Australiana? – comes the fourth release from Phil Davidson, who hails from the Blue Mountains in NSW. Phil upped and went to Nashville to record at Eastside Manor studio with his old friend and fellow Australian Sam Hawksley (Sunny Sweeney, The BoDeans) in the producer’s swivel chair.
The songs clearly germinated during Phil’s serious brush with mortality in the recent past. He has thankfully had the all clear from cancer since, but the profound effects have naturally coloured his songwriting. Themes explored are those of gratitude, love for family and friends, his faith and a renewed appreciation of life.
The Nashville influence is obvious almost from the start. Fearless and several other tracks feature the pedal steel playing of Dan Dugmore, who can rightly be called legendary. Producer Sam Hawksley contributes guitars, mandolin and bass, James Farrell plays keys, and Rachel Loy and Jano Rix complete the lineup on bass and drums, respectively. There’s a melodic 80s pop feel to Mavis Staples and Angelique Kidjo, and Mavis is name-checked again in the lovely Fort Worth TX. The latter is written about his friendship with the Texan singer-songwriter Bonnie Bishop, who returned the compliment by adding her much acclaimed country soul vocals to most of the tracks. The standout song for this reviewer is the beautiful slow burner Things I Didn’t Say, a cowrite with Fred Wilhelm and Sam Hawksley. Phil Davidson has a steady following in his native Northern Ireland, where he was a favourite of the late Gerry Anderson and of another broadcasting legend Cherry McIlwaine. I suspect he will be getting even more radio play on the BBC and further afield for this latest project.
Review by Eilís Boland