‘Shine A Little Light’ has been a long time coming for The Southern Companion. It’s their first release since ‘1000 Days Of Rain’ back in 2015, which went on to win Album Of The Year at the British Country Music Awards, and helped the band establish themselves as one of the leading acts on the UK scene. Although we’ve seen front man Darren out on the road a few times, the band’s musical output has been quiet in recent years, and it’s great to see them back in business. Last week, upon its release, the new album shot straight to #1 on iTunes and held its position for quite a while, too.
Some of this album is fairly easy to review, as a few of these songs have been in circulation for some time, through Darren’s live performances. Songs like ‘Billy’s Brother’, ‘Can I Get A Witness’ and ‘Songbird’ will be familiar to keen followers of the UK scene, and if those are to your liking, you’re in for a treat with the rest of the new project. Expectations were high after ‘1000 Days Of Rain’, and they’ve delivered with a collection that takes everything fans have come to know and love, and develops it into a fresh, diverse sound.
‘Billy’s Brother’ kicks things off; a track that builds and builds with great energy, led by Darren’s powerful, flawless vocal. ‘Witness’ follows – a track with great social relevance in today’s technology-dominated world. “I’ve finally learned to live inside the moment” – this is perhaps one that all of us can take something from and appreciate life a little more. Then, we have ‘Songbird’, a personal favourite on the album, which is not only a wonderfully infectious tune, but it’s a great insight into Darren’s personal life as a loving family man, watching his daughter grow up and experiencing the lifestyle changes that come with that. A delightful listen.
‘Great American Mistake’ is another highlight, with its laid back, trad-country vibe and a really cool guitar solo around the middle section of the track. I love the layers in the production, with the pedal steel and even an organ in there if you delve deep enough. It’s elements like this that set The Southern Companion’s music apart from the rest – having the ambition to push the boundaries in the studio goes a long way.
We also see them pushing the boundaries, this time in a genre sense, with ‘Lie To Me’, which sees them taking on a soulful, blues-influenced sound with some killer guitars and some lovely piano input. The diversity on show is mightily impressive, and it’s moments like this that will translate so well in the live shows and really raise some eyebrows. It’s gritty, passionate and full of raw heart and soul, a combination that this album has in abundance.
‘And In The End’ leads us to ‘Last Rays Of The Sun’, the album’s final track, leaving the listener with a feeling of hope and optimism. Another catchy, easy-listening offering with an anthemic chorus that serves as a fitting end to the emotional journey of the album. There’s nothing not to like here; subject matters that we all come across at various points in life, a mix of influences and sounds that provide for any roots music listener, and a real earthy, emotional delivery from front man Darren throughout.
‘Shine A Little Light’ succeeds in showcasing an evolution for one of the UK scene’s much-loved acts. Production-wise, there’s an organic rawness, almost live-sounding at times; no need for studio alterations, which maintains the experience we get in their live shows. Top quality musicianship and storytelling from start to finish – well worth a listen.