Dust and Bone is the debut album from British singer song writer Michael Baker. Featuring production and co-writes by Dan Brown (Massive Attack) and Jim Lowe (Stereophonics, The Charlatans, Herbie Hancock) amongst other notable names, the twenty seven year old’s debut album knits together intricate and daring instrumentals in a bold blend of contemporary folk that is destined to be a warming antidote to many a winter’s day.
As in his previous two E.P’s Baker’s music is still very much centred on the age old motif of one man and his guitar. Although, where in ‘Caroline’ and ‘The Keys to the Kingdom’, to quote Clash music magazine, his work is ‘sparse, skeletal and… deeply moving’, this album seems fuller instrumentally. The layering of guitars and percussion in contrast to the muted almost sub-aquatic lyrics in ‘River’, for example, highlights something that becomes obvious through this album, that the former Café Nero artist of the year is not afraid to experiment with sound; very often with a breathtaking outcome.
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None of this, though, is to say that his music is entirely independent of his previous releases. The rurality and earthy imagery such as that in Caroline where he refers to a woman who is ‘like fallen leaves / Winter’s grace’ persists in the album’s eponymous title track as he draws on the image of ‘ a line of crows that watch and wait’; the avian simile less endearing than that in his previous song ‘Blackbird’. This time his heartfelt lyrics delivered in an ethereal and beautiful duet with Georgia Mason, seem to communicate the trials and tribulations of a love in combat with materialism.
Turbulent love is a theme that punctuates the album elsewhere. Masterfully so in ‘Revolving Doors’ where the song opens with an ostinato on piano to the refrain ‘This has got me spinning round like a revolving door’, the seemingly banal comparison working on a musical, lyrical and almost visual level before the chorus breaks through with choir like vocals on on the back of a gliding instrumental interlude.
In spite of its subject matter the album is not morose but often quite the reverse as the powerful vocals and bold music turns out to be quite uplifting. Thematically we see a move from frustration to hope.
Overall it’s clear, to quote the artist himself ‘there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing’ – And the same can be said of Dust and Bone released by Michael Baker on out now via Keys to the Kingdom Records.