HEARING THE BLOOD
As an improvising pianist Barney McAll has long been a master of the fine art of fulfilling and subverting expectations. This album shows that same mastery as a composer. Hearing the Blood contains not just his finest batch of compositions to date, but his finest combination of them. The latter point is crucial, because McAll’s love of subverting expectations exists not only from one note, harmony, rhythm, texture or mood to another, and from one part of a composition to another, but also from piece to another.
One’s eyebrows continually shoot up in surprise at the juxtaposition of ideas, while also being thrilled by boldness of the imagination behind them. Nowhere is this stronger than on the title track, which follows the gorgeous ballad Sorrow Horse, and, after beginning with a chant-like melody sung by Daniel Merriweather (initially carrying hints of Robert Wyatt), quickly metamorphoses into soul-inflected, high-drama rock, before changing again to music haunted by ghosts and echoes. The core band is supreme, McAll’s piano and keyboards joined by Mike Rivett’s tenor, Carl Morgan’s guitar, Jonathan Zwartz’s bass and Hamish Stuart’s drums, and the breadth of music wondrous.