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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE



A welcome return to recording activity for Raintown, for their third album "Acoustic Heart". It is not that long ago that Raintown were the brightest of the UK Country acts, leading the way when Ward Thomas and The Shires barely had a single between them. Always a hard grafting, ever entertaining band who would always give their all especially in a live environment, their profile in recent years has waned as bringing up a family was understandably higher on their priority list.

Their second album the underappreciated "Writing On The Wall" captured that live sound at it's excellent rocking best, however it possibly arrived a year or so too late to maintain impetus. For their third outing they are not battling to compete with their past or indeed anyone else's current - the results are the work of a band doing exactly what they want - and the results are a most entertaining affair.

The album opens with "Play It Loud" which contrary to the title opens to the gentlest sound of banjo and fiddles - the album is after all "Acoustic Heart"!. It opens to Claire planning for a big night out.

"It's been too long since we went out - got all dressed up to paint the town leave it all behind for a little while

I'll make some calls, we'll hit them bars , we'll dance all night till the early hours, come home late - well the world can wait"

A song about the sheer joy of listening to live music, it comes wrapped up in a divine fiddle refrain - if there was ever a way to announce your emergence from a creative cocoon then this is it. With Paul joining in on the chorus and a harmonica solo, it is great opener - totally revamped from their 2019 version,

"Day In The Sun" hands over lead vocal duties to Paul Bain, but maintains that acoustic sound with additional backing harmonies. With a steady prominent back beat this mixture of mandolins, guitars and harmonicas makes for a glorious overall sound. There's a spiritual religious theme running through the lyrics, with talk of preachers, confessing to sins, of being lost. forgiveness and redemption however the song seems to be more about seeking happiness after surviving "the deepest scars of love" and letting his "heart run cold"

"My Whole World", one of the stand out tracks, thrusts us immediately into the sort of drama only a country song can successfully pull off.

"Wedding dress for sale - Brand new I'll never wear it"

It is an attention grabbing opening which could go anywhere

"House was bought, date was set, picture perfect then the news hit

Now instead of white, I'm wearing black

There's nothing I can do or say to make God give him back"

The most ultimate of break up songs, manages to truly convey that sense of loss.

"It's my whole world that's broken here not just my heart".

The opening verse and chorus is just Claire and an acoustic guitar, the song relies on the power of the narrative and the quality of Claire's delivery to sustain the listeners attention and this song succeeds on both counts. The second verse opens to the same initial words - the arrival of strings add to the overall sombreness, as do the tiny little details that Claire reveals that really give the song a sense of reality. Claire's delivery excels, knee deep in pathos, as the bride seeking to find a happier home for her dress.

From white dress to "Red Dress" the mood is immediately lifted with an almost Dexy's style singalong, complete with a full brass section. Paul takes the lead with Claire initially on backing vocals for this rollicking dance tune. replete with harmonica solo. Claire takes the lead for the second half on this track of exuberant great fun. It's a tale of Dance Hall shenanigans, a sort of latter day "You're The One Than I Want!" with each of the parties expressing their views.

"My Drum My Beat" get us back to the more acoustic sound of guitar and fiddle, taking almost 50 seconds before the first vocal from Claire even appears on this song of female empowerment

"Said I'll never get far who do you think you are?

Broke those chains of doubt - You'll never stop me now

No-one can ever bring me down I'm rising so high I'll never touch the ground"

There's a nice touch emphasising the "Drum" & "Beat" as it the final section includes military drumbeat rhythms.

"Light The Fuse Up" is the first of 2 songs revisited and given an "Acoustic Heart" remix, starting initially to finger,clicks the acoustic musical scene setting takes a whole minute before then taking off in a totally new direction with a brass section - a duet with an accordion as one of the key instruments, It has transformed from a rocker into a soulful Van Morrison style effort.

"In Your Heart" is a slow heartland ballad, allowing Claire to once again shine with some exceptional vocals - mainly set to an acoustic guitar, though a fiddle and harmonica do join later. - this heartfelt ballad is delivered with such passion you do hope that it reflects a true story.

"When I heard your voice in a roomful of strangers

My heart left me no choice -though I realised the danger" are the opening lines which are lovingly rewritten when they appear at the other end of the song. to read "Now I'm not frightened of the danger

"Run With Night" - opens musically as a sort of "With or Without You" only with more bass and bongos!! It sees the reappearance of the brass section, a Shires style chanting section, even pipes. It is the one song that possibly tries to hard to please and despite everyone clearly having a good time comes up just a little short compared to the songs surrounding it.

Normality is restored with "One Love" opening to Claire and an acoustic - with Paul then joining in for the chorus. after all the effort poured into "Run With The Night", this track is much more effective with a more sparing palette of instruments. Paul sounds at his absolute best on this at times rather funky outing.

"One love for the Mother's pride

One love for the times we cried

One love got to stay alive - I will survive

One love for the city streets

One love for the country beats

One love I do believe

One love is all you need"

"These Tears Tonight" - sees Paul firing out fast paced vocals after a Celtic style guitar intro on what turns out to be quite a rather jaunty tune about having a row. Paul and Claire take on the personas of a constantly warring couple on the precipice. The juxtaposition of tune and subject matter works surprisingly well

"We've been shouting so long - can you even remember

What started this fight? - Does it matter who's wrong or right?

Now we're standing on the edge and the darkness seems forever

I'll be praying that we make it but we might just lose this time"

"Writing On The Wall", the title track of the second album is another song to get an Acoustic Heart remix - opening to a new section which would make it almost unrecognizeable before moving to the more familiar guitar intro. Now more of a party sound with accordions, banjo's and fiddles and a hoedown of a chorus It is a joyful remix really benefiting from its makeover and extended length, at just under 6 minutes allowing room for pipes, as well

The album closes to "Thankful For It All" quite possibly saving the best till last, with vocals sharing verses between Paul and Claire. It is perhaps the most rich and lush sound of the whole record and in the sweetest of moments making sure that reviewers listened to the very end. there is a recording debut for the next generation of the Bain clan.

It brings to an end the amazing return of Raintown, seeking to hit new frontiers rather than revisit old ones, exacerbating all of the things that made them enjoyable in the first place while at the same time giving themselves something of a makeover.


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