With repeated listening, an album that has a stunning impact on first play may lose the ability to create surprise, but it’s rarely the case that it doesn’t continue to impress and, if it’s been created by someone with talent, skill and experience, it grows better with time and further listening. This is the case with the double album Drawing Circles by Nigel Wearne.
Wearne has created an almost baroque yet at times piercingly simple – but not naïve – set of songs, chronicling seasons and moods, people and lives. ‘Simple’ because his intention is clearly to convey his songs, his stories, to listeners and he is determined to not get in their way, because he doesn’t need to; that means no elaborate production, and very little instrumental accompaniment. And there are elements of the baroque thanks to his instruments, guitar and clawhammer banjo, which are the perfect complement to his songs – as they should be, because he made them.
It’s rare to encounter an artist who writes, sings and makes the instruments too, and that is no doubt why this album is so unusual: it sounds so rich and extraordinary that it can actually take a while to realise that it’s an acoustic production. Wearne is one man with an instrument yet he sounds almost like an entire travelling show. He’s a troubadour who would sound at home on an Elizabethan stage even as his storytelling is crisp and appropriate for the modern age.
This is an album beyond categorisation although followers of folk and country music will find much to love about it. The fact that it can’t be easily labelled is a strength, and will hopefully help Wearne find fans in all sorts of places and pockets
Drawing Circles is out now.