Underused Records is a new label based in London. Their motto is simply stated as ‘A home for good songs’ and ‘No Shouting’. ‘Old Happiness’ by A Singer of Songs certainly meets both criteria with aplomb. I first knew ‘A Singer Of Songs’ as a song that appeared as a song on the Unearthed boxset recorded by Johnny Cash. In my book any singer that takes this songs name is a brave man as that song is one of my favourite Johnny Cash moments.
The singer of these songs easily recalls the melancholy style of late singers St Thomas or Vic Chesnutt. There is also something of Johnny Cash himself at his most introspective. The songs that make up ‘Old Happiness’ are sparse acoustic strums that are as enchanting as they are simple. But don’t let the simplicity detract from the power that these songs offer. The words that bubble to the surface (‘gasps of air like cold rocks in my chest’) on lead song ‘Old Happiness’ add weight to the recordings. This is beautiful music with a huge beating heart.
A number of guest back up vocal appearances from Tiny Ruins, Craven Canary and Ana Franco add a smidgen of light amongst the shade. But rest assured, this light, flickers just briefly before you return to the comforting shade. The last record that I loved that sounded this bleak was Tompaulins master work ‘Into The Black’.
I think Johnny Cash would have been proud to hear this singer sing these songs.