Simon Comber: Endearance (CNZ)

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Simon Comber: The Crossroads
Simon Comber: Endearance (CNZ)

Halfway through this slowly engrossing New Zealand singer-songwriter's album is the gently penetrating song Please Elvis, which opens with the singer asking the King not to make his mother cry as she again plays one of his dusty old 45s, but then the song unfurls into a darker and more deep story of family life: "she's twirling a brandy balloon . . . a family will drive you wild, she's just a fading satellite and I'm a grown up only child . . ."

Comber's website here is interesting for his championing of New Zealand poets and he certainly has a literary sensibility in his compressed lyrics and creative narratives: the "grown up only child" mentions "my brother's eyes are filled with pixels, my sister she just shaved off all her hair" on The Jaws of Life so we shouldn't read too much as autobiographical perhaps.

The gentle track Me and Billy T might references the late entertainer, but it's emotional heart is much more sad: there are bedtime prayers of little children, sleeping dogs starting to stir, it being hard to give up somehting you love and "you tell me I can live without you, well I'd like to see you make me try".

Delivered in a high and confident voice - which lacks power in some places it needs to be said -- Comber pulls you into these folk-rock framed acoustic songs, but he astutely punctuates the album with track which bring in drums, bass, electric guitar (and, in the case of the mildly menacing The Crossroads, pump organ).

There are also suggestions of John Martyn's electric guitar style in the long and hypnotic instrumental title track -- and hints of the Clean in a couple of places, including a lyrical reference -- which indicates Comber has given himself plenty of directions in which to move.

Co-produced by Dale Cotton, Endearance -- as with most of the best albums -- doesn't give itself up immediately, but once you start paying attention it rewards handsomely.

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