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Quiet Loner | Secret Ruler of The Word (Circus65)
Melancholy, elegant, exquisite...Quiet Loner have produced the perfect antidote to a life spent racing and chasing. This is an album that deserves to take pride of place in anyone's Best Of list come the end of the year, it simply is that good. From the sweet-as-honey pedal steel of the opening track, Henri, to the classic country drama of closing number, Complex Messiah, 'Secret Ruler of The Word' is a real find, a treat for lovers of carefully-executed Anglophile Americana that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Quiet Loner (the group) is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Matt Hill, who released a series of EPs three years ago and secured support slots with the likes of Lambchop, John Rouse, Chris Mills, Richard Buckner and Neal Casal. So you can see that he's been in good company. And it shows, in the quality of the playing and the depth of his writing.
Hill's acutely-observed lyrics have a sharp, refreshing honesty but are shot through with an optimism that sets him apart form his contemporaries. Musically, Quiet Loner can boast the talents of pedal steel player Alan Cook, who has worked with The Good Sons, and twins Mike and Dave Harries, the Hired Gun rhythm section.
Standout track for me is God Knows I'm Leaving, a beautiful tale of drunken loss and hopelessness that features Kirsty McGee on flute and backing vocals. It's a classic country track, one you could imagine the likes of Emmylou covering: "When the pubs are all closing / they spit out the bones / of shrivelled up and tired old souls / the loveless and lonely / in staggered despair / with nothing to cling to but the lips of a prayer." That lyric alone, and the sublime melody and chorus that accompanies it, is worth the CD's price alone.
Quiet Loner (Matt Hill) has garnered plenty of positive reviews in recent months and I'm happy to add mine. If there's any justice, Matt should swap his flat in inner-city Manchester for a ranch New Mexico - bought with the proceeds from this platinum-selling disc.

John Stacey
March-April 2004

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