The Unseen Guest - Checkpoint

The Unseen Guest
Checkpoint LP

Starting off with the crickets chirping and distinctly ‘deep south’ instrumentation, Declan Murray’s laid-back, yet confident vocals gently creep into the mix putting you in mind of some dusty western outpost in the arse-end of nowhere.

It may sound all desolate and barren but ‘Miracle Mile’ is just one of those songs that succeeds in wrapping you up in its poncho and whisking you off to somewhere a damn sight more interesting and dangerous than middle England. The blues influence, touched on in their first album, is stronger here (tipping its hat once more to JJ Cale) and the harmonica break (though I’m not too sure it actually is a harmonica) just underlines the ‘outlaw’ groove nicely.

‘Place Your Bets’ then changes tack ever so slightly, starting like a backing track to a Carlos Santana song, all full of South American promise. In fact, lyrically, it’s all the way to the Cape of Good Hope with a slightly dreamy take on the loneliness and vulnerability that serious travelling can deal you. Special mention must also go to the great outro, with a gently overdriven, reverbed up guitar leading the way home.

Creeping into life with a cautionary tale of living in a big brother state, ‘Don’t Let It Show’ talks of the dangers of speaking something other than the official line when disappearing in the middle of the night becomes the norm. ‘Ancient Greek’ then drags things back to basic, honest blues with a song about miscommunication in a relationship, leaving ‘Lovesong #10’ to pick the tempo back up with upbeat stomp and downbeat lyrics.

‘Black Hole’, after an intro sounding like a distant madman in a sanatorium, kicks in with a bouncy, acoustic beat coming across like The Beatles having a bluesy jam with Bob Dylan and a small brass section. However, it’s the chorus that really steals the show here, bobbing along like a happy barfly with just enough grasp of rhythm to stop him from falling off his stool. It’s all uplifting, gritty fun and is easily one of the album’s highlights alongside ‘Miracle Mile’ and ‘Don’t Let It Show’.

However, I can’t finish without mentioning ‘Conga Line’ which manages to combine subversive, dirty blues strumming, a great slide guitar and distantly poignant lyrics in a three-minute foot-stomping romp.

Wrapping things up with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’, The Unseen Guest have managed to produce another album of real quality which is not afraid to embrace all its cultural influences while maintaining an engaging and emotional dusty blues core.

And yes, I still haven’t a clue what a ganjra is or even sounds like, but I’m determined to dig out that old bong and see if I can’t get a tune out of it.

The Unseen Guest Articles

Written by Habert on

Pete Habert was sub-editor for The Mag and co-ordinated submissions from the swarm of writers that contributed articles from their local music scenes.

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