British guitar extraordinaire Newton Faulkner recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut album, Hand Built By Robots. Released back in 2007, Faulkner’s fresh take on acoustic guitar driven pop numbers came long before the likes of fellow ginger songsmith Ed Sheeran set his sights on world domination. Offering raw, folk dressed pop gems including Dream Catch Me and a beautiful cover of Massive Attack signature hit, Teardrop, we had always hoped, and sort of expected, Faulkner to take the reigns from Sheeran and other upcoming singer-songwriters at the time and become the biggest of them all. While he may not be a household name on the international stage just yet, Faulkner has carved himself an impressive career of 5 studio records – 4 of which have made their way to the top 10 of the UK charts – and regularly tours to sold out crowds. The former dreaded star of Brit folk-pop is also now about to return with a sixth studio album to add to his flourishing catalogue in the shape of Hit The Ground Running.
Faulkner is quick to remind us of his signature percussive guitar skills with album opener Smoked Ice Cream. The first of of a generous 14 new tracks, the introduction to Hit The Ground Running splits its time between stripped back verses and a rich, instrumentally buzzing chorus that carries all the ingredients of a Faulkner summer hit.
The records title track and lead single is an atmospheric celebration of Faulkner’s ability to mix his folk roots with a more mainstream, Americanized sound that was adopted for previous album, Human Love. Combining his effortless vocal talents with a more subtle focus on his guitar, the track is gentle in its delivery and carries a slight Peter Gabriel vibe to it while the singer-songwriter applies an echoed effect to next number, All She Needs with positive effect; the track being an early standout on Hit The Ground Running with its gritty edges, bolshy chorus’ and churning electric guitars peaking through the acoustic foundation of the track.
Been Here Before allows listeners to admire the musicians crisp and seasoned vocal skills as he dances flawlessly around instrumentation that insists on sitting on the sidelines, but the majority of the album is a harmonious mix of guitar and vocal with the occasional inclusion such as the bluesy Finger Tips diving into rockier territory and seasoning Hit The Ground Running with something a little unexpected.
As we near the end of the record, the guitar picked duet, So Long or the gospel drenched, multi-vocal and cinematic Carry You mix superbly with more familiar sounding album numbers such as the bouncy This Kind of Love and the slightly country-dressed Guitar-y Thing; the latter providing Hit the Ground Running with its token instrumental.
The record boasts a diverse collection of hits for Faulkner. While most sit comfortably within the musicians acoustic/folk comfort zone, its numbers like the beautiful piano-driven The Good Fight, with its eerie vocal that vibrate throughout the tracks laid-back and eerie instrumentation, that signal that its not necessarily business as usual for our favourite ginger guitar hero.
Hit The Ground Running sees Faulkner back on top form; merging his folk roots that made success stories out of songs like Dream Catch Me and I Need Something and the mainstream glossing that the singer-songwriter adopted on his last record, creating a beautiful collection of both vocal and instrumental splendour for the hit-maker.