It’s not often that you stumble upon an artist who makes you stop and listen, really listen openly and wholeheartedly to every word, every phrase and every breath. Roger Marshall ’s new album does just that, making ‘Situation Normal’ anything but ‘normal’.
From the opening phrase of See You When I See You we’re hooked in, swept away in a tide of swelling instrumentation from Shimna Higgins’ soaring violin and the mood-setting keyboard of Louis Bernstone.
Some very tasteful subdued percussive work from Jono Sawyer also backs Marshall’s raspy singing, guitar and harmonica playing on the dawdling track, evoking images of loss and forgotten memories. Adam Tobeck plays the drums on several other tracks and Stuart Grimshaw also adds bass in some.
Reminiscent of (and no doubt greatly influenced by) some of the most influential songwriting legends of our time – most notably Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, Marshall consistently strikes the right chord.
Not effortless necessarily, but without artifice and always measured. Co-produced with Bernstone, who also mixed and mastered the album at his Ellamy Studios in Auckland, there is a real sense of cohesiveness.
Though 13 tracks deep it’s not overly long, each song has its own story to tell and journey to take.
I found myself devouring the lyric sheet in the hopes that I might perhaps be able to interpret some higher meaning from it all, to learn from someone who, judging by his spoken/sung poetry, appears to have lived a thousand lives.
In the track Doing Life, he sings, “I got no reserves to call upon, all my words have been said and done. But don’t you worry now, I’m all right… I’m just doing life.” Situation normal, chaos reigns.