Sylvie / Full Time Hobby – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Summer’s disappeared again, slipping and sliding out the back door without even a whispered farewell, a faint smile on her lips perhaps, telling of sunshine memorials and playful pastimes. Sylvie begins where summer ends: ‘autumn leaves are falling like the rain’ are the first words you’ll hear and you’re in, fully feeling Ben Schwab‘s soulfood stylings. David Crosby chatting up Karen Dalton outside the five and dime, Laurel Canyon shipped in for one last hurrah around the fountain.

Inspired by Schwab’s father’s band, Sylvie is nostalgia rebranded, warmth and good times and the promise of youth bundled up and given back to the people with love. It’s cozy, sure, but it’s heartfelt: organically organised, ‘just a feeling….just a feeling that we had’ as the title cut puts it. Right now I’d wager that plenty of us will settle for warmth and kindness, and a place to lay our weary heads – a retreat from the realities of what humanity has sunk to recently. There are seven tracks, seven placid slices of easy-going country-soul: loping beats and strummed guitars are the order of the day. The revolution may not be televised, but there’s certainly something in the air: the hot tang of the broken-hearted? Could be…

The past is present and gloriously incorrect: ‘sometimes I see too much light’ they sing on Shooting Star, and all you can do is smile sadly and agree. Shades of all the best bits of Bobby Gillespie’s record collection, sunday morning coming down one last time: the song remains the same.

Think of the old quip regarding Neil Young only having one guitar solo, but it being one hell of a solo: Sylvie’s right there in Neil’s sweetspot – the songwriting stacking up against the maestro’s magic. You suspect he’d love the melancholic undertow of Stealing Time, for example, or the gentle sorcery of Falls On Me. These are songs chiselled from the ether: a grasping of classic simplicity, rendered beautifully. When the latter cuts off mid-strum, you’re shaken and stirred, the reverie interrupted, the dream deferred.

Sylvie is an autumnal joy then, a longing look backwards that ends up sounding just right for today. Joy and sadness, and that crazy little thing called life are all here, sounding sweeter than you can imagine. Lots of people are going to love this album – it might even love them right back – it’s just a feeling that we had, after all. Wonderful, wistful and wise. Love it.

Sylvie is available to order now, care of Full Time Hobby.

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