Cherry Ghost Herd Runners on LP + Download
For the last couple of years, Simon Aldred has been in a state of wilful musical schizophrenia. Since 2007, Bolton-born Aldred has – to all intents – been Cherry Ghost, a band known for perfecting a kind of widescreen North Western country soul. Yet the third Cherry Ghost album, Herd Runners arrives after an extensive period in which Aldred’s own music been pulled in multiple different directions.
Firstly – as a songwriter-for-hire – Aldred has helped to nurture the best of nascent British talent (including hugely tipped artists like Sam Smith and Rae Morris). Latterly – as singer and solo artist – he produced a set of critically lauded post-midnight electronic love songs under the Out Cold guise. Somewhere in the middle, there’s the small matter of the phoenix-like rebirth of Aldred’s Ivor Novello-winning 2007 single, "People Help The People" as it went on to chart highly in fourteen different countries in 2010 when it was covered by the teenage singer, Birdy. Far from muddying the musical waters, each of these diversions has only helped sharpen Aldred’s songwriting, providing a major spur for the finest Cherry Ghost album to date.
Shifting from soaring, symphonic pop ("Clear Skies Ever Closer") to melancholic lock-in blues ("Drinking For Two") via an almost uncompromisingly hopeful rhythmic shuffle ("The World Could Turn (In A Heartbeat)"), Herd Runners is a sublime collection, a reminder of Aldred’s singular skill as a composer; a skill that can twist bitter loss into teary optimism (and back) in less time than it takes to toss a coin. Lyrically, the album paints Edward Hopper-esque observations of the lives of others.
Where previous records would have focused on the gloomy edges of the picture, Herd Runners takes something of a longer view. Herd Runners pictures an old country seen through the eyes of those left behind to work tables in diners (“Sacramento’s half the city, since you took that job two states away” "Sacramento"); a world peopled by those left disillusioned by the dreams we’re all sold (“I do believe I've lost my faith in Hollywood,” "My Lover Lies Under"); open skies lit only by a “nail clipped moon” and relationships floored after someone’s “pissed away the welfare”.
Unlike the last Cherry Ghost album (Beneath This Burning Shoreline featured music co-written with his then-touring band), Herd Runners was written and readied for recording by Aldred alone. Much like Cherry Ghost’s debut, Thirst For Romance, the record is ostensibly a solo endeavour demoed at home before being finally pieced together in the studio with the help of a few handpicked musicians. Rather than wait until the songs were completely watertight, Aldred booked the studio and engineer (Yellow Arch in Sheffield with long-term Richard Hawley collaborator Colin Elliot) for three months hence then set about fiercely working against the ticking clock he’d set for himself.
While many of Aldred’s co-writes are worked up from scratch in a day or two and the Out Cold record was the result of experimentation with new forms of technology, the songs on Herd Runners were always going to lend themselves to lusher, more traditional arrangements. Mixed in Moles in Bath with Dan Austin (co-producer and mixer of both Thirst For Romance and Beneath This Burning Shoreline), Herd Runners is Cherry Ghost’s finest record yet; ten perfectly crafted tales of heartbreak and hope. That musical schizophrenia is clearly working wonders for Simon Aldred. Long may it continue.
Cherry Ghost Herd Runners Track Listing:
1. Clear Skies Ever Closer
2. Don't Leave Me Here Alone
3. Fragile Reign
5. The World Could Turn
6. Drinking For Two
7. Herd Runners
8. My Lover Lies Under
9. Love Will Follow You