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Album Review: Sweet Baboo – Boombox Ballads

2 min read

Sweet Baboo, or Stephen Black, is firmly (if quietly) ensconced as a purveyor of a certain eccentric charm, quirky indie pop and a slightly left field sense of romance. His latest release Boombox Ballads brings all of the above to the table, and a bit more. Purposefully stepping away from the somewhat tired label of ‘singer-songwriter’, Boombox Ballads set Black as the singer in a throwback to classic crooners from previous decades.

Sweet Baboo - Boombox BalladsEverything about this record has an old fashioned feel to it; from the instrumental arrangements to the romantic sentiment that could match any old time movie soundtrack. Working with arranger Paul Jones on the music for Boombox Ballads, Black truly did step back from the instrumentation aspect. Elegantly placed strings, score inspired piano and marching band brass sit next to Sweet Baboo’s usual fare of indie acoustic, guitar lead tracks.

Opening track Sometimes is a smooth lead into this evolved sound, with an intro that wouldn’t be out of place on previous records, but launching into majestic cinematic interludes. Contrasting influences mesh together on tracks like Got To Hang Onto You and Two Lucky Magpies, the  romance of 1950’s rock ’n’ roll ballads and old movies is shot through with Black’s earnest vocals and a simplicity that bridges the two sides. Duet with guest vocal Laura Byron on You Got Me Time Keeping has a similar effect, balancing that sweetness and charm with a certain oddity and theatricality.

Boombox Ballads really does throw Sweet Baboo centre stage of the production. Letting the vocals stray out front of the backing band, Black takes on the persona of a modern day Gene Kelly. Challenging his audience in a new way but with the same sentiment, for an artist who has remained just shy of serious impact, this release could be the one that throws Sweet Baboo centre stage in a literal sense.