The Good Gentleman's Tonic
Right from the off it is apparent that the making of The Good Gentleman’s Tonic has been a labour of love; every aspect, from the liner notes to the super-deluxe packaging, exhibits an almost obsessive attention to detail. The aim? To be inspired by (but steer clear of aping) Ronnie Lane’s 1970s output with Slim Chance. This Andy Bell-produced release takes in folk, country, blues and rock and is intended as the first in a trilogy of Kuschty Rye releases to mirror the albums put out by Slim Chance.
Judging this album as a release in its own right and divorcing it from the story of its conception is a difficult task. That said, it stands up well, is superbly produced and has moments that are truly engaging. ‘Tonic’ kicks off with “Careless Love,” a good time number that sounds like it’s played by a raggle-taggle band of gypsies. “Nothing New” is an extremely memorable accordion-driven number with great harmonies.
Later on, “Little Girl” impresses. Sounding something akin to a long-lost classic imbued with shades of Ron Sexsmith, it has a truly timeless quality. The album’s standout track though, is undoubtedly “Long Long Time.” Replete with unmistakeable Maggie May double tap at the start, it shuffles along in a Radio Two- friendly fashion with its hummable chorus and Celtic fiddle.
The danger with an album of this ilk is that of nostalgia. While Horsfall and band have done an excellent job of replicating 1970s recording techniques and sounds, at times they almost seem too enamoured by their heroes. As a result, the album in question isn’t without its imperfections. Instrumental wanderings – charming back in the day – instead sound stagnant here, while ‘authentic’ lyrics in places haven’t aged well and instead lend a slightly directionless quality to some points.
In an ideal world The Good Gentleman’s Tonic would do really well and find itself heavily rotated on national radio. In reality, it is more likely to go down as great-sounding but niche. Some of the songs stand up very well against the original material that inspired them although the 30-odd years that have passed and the gulf in musical statuses of the protagonists make this more admirable than astonishing. That said, it is a great, fun record to listen to and, for fans of Slim Chance no doubt, a must.