Almost five years ago Gregory Harrison released his self-titled solo debut EP to much acclaim within Guernsey’s music scene and further afield, but since then his solo endeavours have taken something of a back seat as he focussed on being part of The Recks.
Since the band have gone on something of a hiatus following the 2020 Vale Earth Fair he has refocused on his solo material recording a new album made up of live favourites and some brand new songs (released now through Magic Moustache Records), 109.
From the opening count in the scene is set for a raw, almost live, feeling record that captures the best of Harrison’s live performances with some added flourishes that develop as the record goes on.
The first couple of tracks, Fever and Baby Baby, feel particularly raw with the sound based entirely around Greg’s voice and guitar and the bass and backing vocals of Pip Orchard (most recently seen on bass duties with Yaz).
This is an exceptionally brave thing for any musician to do on record but Harrison pulls it off with the rawness marrying with an exceptionally uncynical and heartfelt delivery.
I’m Just Asking sees the duo joined by Mimi Bishop (also seen as part of the Ukuladeez) sharing lead vocals with a great natural back and forth between the two before we get some amazing guitar and violin interplay that is genuinely raging in places, on instrumental Fionn.
Being one of my favourites from his live performances, title track 109 was one I was really looking forward to and it manages to capture both what is so good about it live and throw in some extras too, most obviously with a harmonica but also some extra embellishments in the guitar parts.
Belvedere Inn then provides the standout moment of the record as it captures the feeling of a hangover in hugely evocative musical form, capturing the feeling of the night (or maybe in this case week) before with a huge cello part… though I’m not sure it’ll work to encourage many to visit the Weymouth hostelry that is it’s namesake.
Low then is a terrific example of romantic desperation wrought in song that feels like a climax of the record before we get the even more raw and analogue sounding Dartmoor.
While this feels something like a ‘bonus track’ it is of no less quality than the rest and, in fact, more than any other shows the skill of the performers in being an absolutely raw single take recording.
As a whole 109 captures Gregory Harrison’s style of folk with hints of jazz and swing excellently and there is a real feeling while listening of sitting in a smokey bar listening to them play.
As well as the live feel they have also added that something extra that can be achieved on record, thanks to the production duties from Stretchy Studio, but without losing the raw, live feel and, while its maybe not the most casual listen, 109 is an early highlight of new releases from the islands so far this year.
Fantastic review.. It’s a super listen