Sunday, 20 November 2011

Matt Deighton - Villager (1995)


Out of step with Britpop, pre cool-folk, definitely due a re-appraisal. This album was part of my soundtrack back in the mid 90's and I've been meaning to write a piece about it for some time. It's recently been re-issued so now is as good a time as any. Proof indeed that there was more to the 90's than Britpop, post-rock, boy bands and bling.

Click over the jump for more on Matt Deighton's Villager LP.

In the mid 90's while the supposedly cool, urban, mod-ish types were buttoning down the collars on their Ben Sherman shirts and arguing over the relative merits of Oasis and Blur, Matt Deighton took time out from the Madding Crowd to record his folksy debut solo LP.

Following an apprenticeship in 80's indie outfit The Wolfhounds and early Acid Jazz signings Mother Earth Deighton retreated with his partner Nicola Bright-Thomas to record this homely set of songs singing the praises of small-town domesticity, the love of a good woman, and the comfort of seeing the occasional working windmill.

Seeking solace and renewal in the countryside had long been one of rock's recurring themes by this time so it would take a brave or talented artist to pull this of in the midst of the self aware, cynical, 90's. Fortunately Deighton was both.

“Villager” was the first album release on Focus Records, an off-shoot of Eddie Pillar's Acid Jazz label, set up to release records with a more rock slant than funk laden jazzy grooves. Ironically “Villager” was neither, though defiantly folk it did bear similarities in sound and attitude to Paul Weller's “Wildwood”. (In fact Deighton would go on to enjoy a stint in Weller's band as lead guitarist.)

Eclipsed in popularity at the time by the Britpop elite's headline grabbing antics and released several years before Devandra Banhart, Joanna Newsom et al would reclaim folk's cool factor, the album literally wears its heart on its sleeve. From the wicker doll on the front cover, to the photo of Deighton, sitting on the doorstep of some whitewashed cottagey retreat, his hairstyle defiantly out of step with the times. Indeed, the shot could have graced any number of late 60's/early 70's folk-rock LP sleeves.
There was more to come – Five years later Deighton followed this up with his second folk LP “You Are The Healer”. Deighton was lured back to the rock fold to temporarily replace Noel Gallagher in Oasis when he had one of his on tour strops. And later re-formed Mother Earth to re-connect with his jazz rock groove, but for many this remains his definitive statement.