Evans McRae – Only Skin
Tom McRae may not be a household name but he has had a long and distinguished career as a performer and songwriter. He’s written songs for Marianne Faithfull and had the honour of being selected for Scott Walker’s Meltdown in 2000. By comparison Lowri Evans is something of a newcomer but over the past decade she has established herself as one of Wales’ finest singer songwriters. The duo met on a songwriters’ retreat organised by McRae’s friend and fellow Mercury Prize nominee, Kathryn Williams, the two found they shared a love of crafted but emotionally powerful songs. After many trips between Pembrokeshire and McRae’s West Country home, the pair realised they weren’t writing songs for other artists, they’d actually written an album for themselves. The variety of material here may come as something of a surprise for Lowri’s Welsh fans but serve to demonstrate her vocal range and song writing abilities. The album is well paced beginning with the restrained “Say What You Mean” leading into the title track which smoulders and builds incrementally with a superb arrangement. The pace gathers with McRae taking the lead on the brooding “Careful” with echoes of a mid-70s Fleetwood Mac and things reach a crescendo with the blistering “Sleep with One Eye Open” which includes the wonderful juxtaposition of full blown band work out and vocals from the Ar ôl Tri male voice choir. The inclusion of the Fairytale of New Yorkesque “Merry Christmas My Darling (Drink Up)” does grate slightly for an album released in the summer but come the festive season this track will no doubt come into its own. The albums saves the best till last with the closing track “Just Falls Apart” a nostalgic, haunting melody with an exquisite brass arrangement; a triumphant end to a superb album. ‘Only Skin‘ is a hugely successful collaboration and it would be an act of folly if this wasn’t extended to post lockdown live dates and several more albums to follow.