sat 18/05/2024

Album: William The Conqueror - Excuse Me While I Vanish | reviews, news & interviews

Album: William The Conqueror - Excuse Me While I Vanish

Album: William The Conqueror - Excuse Me While I Vanish

Fourth album from Cornish trio impressively weaves together Americana, folk, indie and even grunge

Cornish musical royalty

Ruarri Joseph is not a household name but in a Sliding Doors scenario, he might have been. Scottish, raised in New Zealand, and based in Cornwall, he signed to Atlantic in 2007, and had the same management as Damien Rice and David Gray.

His output was, however, too early for the folk micro-boom engendered by Mumford & Sons, and his songs weren’t whiney enough for mass 21st century tastes in singer-songwriters. He’s consistently been making music, though, and his latest proves the fires are far from out.

Seven years ago, Joseph focused his attention on a new project, William The Conqueror, with compadres Naomi Holmes on bass and Harry Harding on drums. Together, they pushed towards Americana but laced with an indie edge. Their latest album, their fourth, has all this in its DNA but also slivers of grunge and something of Josh Ritter’s filmic cosmic.

The ten songs have an opaque lyricism, redolent of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (“Stick around until the circus has gone/Unleashed by the Indian sun/Sometimes, sometimes, the truth’s much tougher”). As a result, clear meaning isn’t always easy to unpick yet a hinted narrative often plays out. For instance, “Sheepskin Sleeve” can be read as the ruminations of a man whose former lover is stolen away by a treacherous acquaintance. But it might well not be about that at all. The music throughout occasionally recalls Cohen too, the way the female backing vocals give the male lead a churchy power.

While the album is centred on a southern US campfire chug, around it swirl many other elements. Mosty notably, a few songs are boosted by sudden bursts of grungy guitar, such as epic opener “The Puppet and the Puppeteer” and lively highlight “Shots Fired From Heaven”, which is also laced with a Memphis Soul feel. It seems unlikely at this stage that William The Conqueror will suddenly achieve a fanbase far beyond festival enthusiasts and BBC 6Music listeners, but if one of these songs were picked to close a meaty and emotional HBO gem, that Sliding Doors moment may yet arrive. The music is worthy of it.

Below: Watch William The Conqueror play "The Puppet and the Puppeteer" live at Marshall Studios

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