It had been pissing it down for 48 hours solid and my never especially sizeable stash of good will was running close to empty. We were stood before the main stage at the Green Man festival waiting for Mountain Man, whose album ‘Made The Harbor’ was slightly unlucky to miss out on making this list. After a period of clear uncertainty amongst the crew, Huw Stephens came merrily bounding out to tell us that Mountain Man had been delayed. The two acts who filled in were to define the festival for me and both feature in this list. The first, doing a handful of acoustic songs accompanied only by his guitar, was the utterly charming Sweet Baboo.
In the weeks after Green Man, his name seemed to pop up in all sorts of places I knew well and I began to wonder how he had slipped under the radar up to this point. Thankfully, radar now bang on target, it turned out that he made bloody marvellous music. With introductions almost as long as the songs themselves, he was a welcome tonic to the grey clouds and mud. Although the album requires the songs to stand alone, his knack with words is still obvious for all to hear. Having won over the crowd with his unscheduled four song stint, Stephen (he who be Baboo) informed us that he had some CDs for sale down at the front and promptly ditched his guitar, grabbed a small brown box and leapt off the stage to commence a quick burst of retail endeavour. Whilst both albums are worth your time, he had, quite understandably, been playing songs from his new record and I became rather eager to get hold of a copy.
‘I’m A Dancer / Songs About Sleepin” is, as the name suggests, an album in two parts. While this is rather more pronounced when playing the delightful Shape Records vinyl pressing, it’s not something we need dwell on here as the consistency of the songwriting throughout is our primary concern. Though the songs are more fleshed out than in that first encounter, the sound is warm and natural. There are no big production values on this album and it’s all the better for it. Stephen Black’s slightly awkward, mumbly delivery, combined with his thoroughly unmasked Welsh accent, makes for a distinctive and enthralling sound. You’ll either love it, or fail to see the point entirely. I can’t imagine many people responding to this record by saying "it’s quite nice."
The true tour-de-force, and the song which stole the show during both of his performances back on that wet weekend, is ‘Who Would Have Thought‘, a song which frequently sounds like it’s ready to go to the chorus but never really seems to. The whole album deserves your attention, and you can listen via the link above, but this one song is a lyrical triumph about mixing together two brains, pitched somewhere between comedian and crackpot. Let’s give the last word to Baboo: "Your zombie-based collages want to make me love your brain. Can I scoop out your mind, scoop it right out and squish it to mine?"
(Having said I’d give Stephen the last word, I feel obliged to point out two further things:
1. Via the link embedded in the album art above, you can not only sample the album but also get a free download of another recent Baboo tracks in whatever format you like. You’ll see the option on the top right hand side of the page.
2. Stephen is also involved in the music of H Hawkline, who released their splendid debut very recently on Shape. You can hear that here and purchase a very limited vinyl copy, if you so desire. )