Back in July, I posted my first impressions of the new track from Mark Peters, ‘Switch On The Sky’. It was a beautiful mantra to the sun sung by One Doves Dot Allison. I’ve now been living with the album it comes from for a couple of months now and I think it’s about time I tell you all about it.
The album opens on ‘Switch on the Sky’, a perfect introduction to the chilled Americana about to unfold. Please do go check out my earlier blog to find out my thoughts in more depth.
We then neatly segue into ‘Golden Cloud’. A gloriously airy instrumental in which it feels like you’re being basked in the golden rays of the morning sun. A gently picked banjo plays off against some stunning pedal steel.
On that subject, the album features the pedal steel playing of BJ Cole. On the subject of Cole agreeing to play on the album, Peters had this to say.
“I became obsessed with finding tracks where pedal steel guitar was the main, if not the only instrument,” he explains. “People like Chuck Johnson, Buddy Emmons and Luke Schneider. I really enjoyed incorporating these instruments into my own tracks and just exploring the tones of them rather than trying to attempt authentic country playing. Having BJ play on the record crystallized the whole concept,” Mark explains. “I love his playing on things like ‘Silver Moon Over Sleeping Steeples’ by David Sylvian. He’s possibly the UK’s greatest living country musician.”
We emerge into ‘Silver River’ next. The track slowly reveals itself. The pedal steel flutters, like the sunlight dappling the water. It’s a peaceful meditation in musical form and, for me, demonstrates the imagination Peters possesses. Leveraging the sweeping tones of Coles playing by wrapping it layers of reverb is a genius move!
Things pick up pace next with ‘Dusty Road Ramble’. There’s a real swagger in the duelling guitars which will get your foot tapping. The title is a nod to the group originally put together by Hank Walters, the late father of country music in Liverpool. This, however, stretches that country motif to its limit pulling the song into another genre entirely. However, could I nail down what genre that is? Not sure I could. Again, a sign we are listening to a genius at work.
‘The Musical Box’ continues that genre-defying work by deftly weaving some electronica through the luscious guitars. It’s not long before the banjo reappears reminding us, that we are in American skies. Soaring over the desert roads below. I love how this album triggers images in your head, feelings and emotions that tie you to the US.
There’s something about the next track, ‘Tamaroa’ that sends my mind straight to Brian Wilson’s work on the lost Beach Boys album, Smile. Like Peters, he too was writing a love letter to the USA. It’s the almost pastoral feel of the music or is it the modular approach to the song’s construction perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s Wonderful and it’s definitely giving me Good Vibrations.
The title track is up next and from the off delivers a hallucinatory experience. It almost feels like you’re listening to two songs at the same time yet they are completely in simpatico, lifting and augmenting the other. It’s simply stunning.
The album closes out with the exultant tones of ‘Sundowning’. Emerging slowly from a dream state the song blooms from almost nothing into this celebratory chant. The feeling of joy in this song is quite overwhelming. It feels like coming home. Like remembering who you really are and what you need to do. It’s such a powerfully beautiful way to end this experience.
I say experience because in Red Sunset Dream Peters has created a place for the listener to disappear for a while. An album so deftly woven together that it feels like one continuous piece rather than songs put together in order. Many have attempted what Peters makes look so easy. But it’s rare that it is pulled off in such a way that grabs you by the heart and leads you, gently on a journey. A journey into the sky and over landscapes you never thought you’d ever see. This album has won my heart and, if you give it a chance, it will win yours too.
Red Sunset Dreams is available now on a variety of coloured vinyl options and CD from Mark Peters Bandcamp, Sonic Cathedral and Rough Trade.
Follow Mark Peters on social media here…
Photos courtesy of Robin Clewley.