Unsigned musicians can be hit or miss but Briton Alan Bonner‘s second self-released album Balladeer is a hit. While most critics are quick to point out the parallels between Mr. Bonner and similar English songwriters, say Elton John or early David Bowie, those comparisons are rather superficial and don’t garner Mr. Bonner enough credit for his individual contributions to the craft.
Albeit Balladeer is piano oriented, in fact the first two tracks serve well to illustrate the album’s namesake- Mr. Bonner doesn’t shy away from experimenting in other mediums. For track three, “Lighthouse Song,” the ukelele is the substantive rhythmic device. The heavy dramatics of the opening songs are stripped away in favor of a more carefree yet still conflicted amorous subject. This is quickly followed by a gentle guitar and bells lullaby in tribute to Mr. Bonner’s “Little M.”
Conflict seems to be the subject matter if not inspiration for the greater part of Balladeer. Many of his songs focus on inter-personal relationships, a rich topic whenever conflict is involved. And while the subject of regret surfaces as often as his intricate piano lines, Mr. Bonner doesn’t use his equally often cited substance and alcohol abuse as a crutch to explain away his acknowledged regret, rather boldly he embraces the excesses as a natural outlet of the joy to be found in living, urging his audience on “Ocean,” to quite literally dive in.
The lyrics contained within Balladeer make Mr. Bonner’s sexual preference perfectly clear, however a number of the songs are penned in admiration of women, none moreso than closeout track “Talia.” Sexual orientation isn’t a major theme of the album, which is refreshing when one considers the confessional method of songwriting employed. However neither is the subject over-looked. One of the most arresting songs on the album is “Rainbow Man” which could rightly be adopted by the LGBT community as an anthem. All the components are there, a swelling chorus, touching lyrics en memorium to the victim of a hate crime, and a sincere, emphatic delivery that shames bigotry without losing focus from the individual at the song’s center.
On Balladeer, Mr. Bonner shows lyrically his duality of character and an undeniable musical talent. While I wouldn’t suspect Balladeer to become a break-out, the work has lain a solid foundation for the musician’s future success. Mr. Bonner has the means of a pauper but sings with the heart of a king. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him topping mainstream charts with the future inclusion of advanced production and additional musical accompaniment.
MP3: Alan Bonner “Rainbow Man”