“And I never thought it would be so hard, to watch you walk away from me”, sings Connor Selby on the opening song here, “Can’t Let You Go”.
As signposts go…..
You see, that’s basically the album in a nutshell, that song. Mid-paced, full of soul and emotion, exquisite Hammond Organ, and some guitar from the top draw. It’s one of two stand out moments on this.
The other is “Emily”. It comes in on the back of a filthy riff, and sees Selby implore: “girl, I want you to taint me too”. It’s got tremendous singalong potential. The piano has a real barroom feel, its probably the high water mark of this major label debut.
Selby has worn the “boy most likely” tag around his neck for ages. He opened for The Who in 2019. I was there. He was superb, The Who less so and he’s got an interesting back story. Born in Essex, a childhood split between the UAE and The USA, its little wonder that he said he felt “different from my peers”.
He found solace in music. This music. The blues, The Stax label. Jazz, soul and its all here in these songs.
We called it his “major label debut” and it sort of is. What it actually is, is his 2021 record repackaged with four new songs tagged on to the end. One of these is a fun jazz take on “My Baby Don’t Dig Me” – something of the New Orleans second line about it, another “I Shouldn’t Care” was released as a single recently and although it has the same vibe as the ones on the original album, it has stepped up a notch in fairness – and let there be no doubt whatsoever that Selby can play the guitar.
His love of his craft is unquestionable too. I have written before that I feel like an imposter when it comes to Blues Music. I love it, and have done since I saw Walter Trout 20 years ago and someone said “well if you like Walter, try a chap called Rory Gallagher”, but I am not steeped in it, not in the way that Selby is and when he sings “I know what I was put on this earth to do, that’s why I am gonna keep on singing the blues” on “Love Letter To The Blues” that he means it. There’s a dishevelled, late night at the jazz club flavour here that he’d do well to explore.
The last of the four new songs “The Deep End” brings it back full circle too, as it’s the same middle of the road, organ infused thing that kicked it off, it does have the benefit of a slightly improved voice. Often the delivery on the other songs was sort of conversational. This one feels like he’s really singing it.
And, lets be honest, the blues theme of love, and a lack thereof is well trod here. “If You’re Gonna Leve Me”, the funkier “Falling In Love Again”, the slow balladry of “The Man I Ought To Be” are all, essentially the same song.
The colour comes from the Laurel Canyon breeze that blows through “Waiting On A Day” or “Hear My Prayer” – another that benefits from a vocal melody – or the more soul orientated “Show Me A Sign”.
The keys are almost as important to the album as the guitar and the piano on “Anyhow” elevates it, while “Starting Again” builds neatly into something of an epic, without ever quite reaching the heights it promised.
The same is true of the album in all candour. I’ve no doubt at all Connor Selby will release a classic record at some point, but if “Connor Selby” is not it, then it is a nod to his potential.