This hypnotic album from Duncan Sumpner—aka Songs of Green Pheasant—is dedicated to one of his friends and also a cousin, both of whom passed away in 2010. It is a melancholy yet uplifting meditation on landscape, loss and memory, with sublime brass and piano accompaniment perfectly complementing Sumpner’s light touch with vocal harmony and guitar.
Soft Wounds makes much from careful composition, thematic coherence, and Sumpner’s ability to write about his own backyard. It walks amid an intoxicating air of English pastoralism somewhere between the darker cloudy hues in Ian Carr’s Old Heartland and the manicured nostalgic terrain of Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure.
In an ideal world, “Teenwolf” would be a big summer hit and it already wins an award for the most subtle use of a barking dog on any album I’ve ever heard. Clive Scott’s deceptively simple brass work crops up here and there, bringing a subtle hint of colliery bands and the lovely terrain of North Derbyshire/South Yorkshire. Scott’s playing on both “Deaf Sarah” and “For People” is introduced at just the right moment and is incredibly emotive. The entire record is as simple and wonderful as feeling the warm sun on your cheek or watching it flicker through trees on a ramble or drive. Sumpner gets the pace of this album absolutely right. I like his use of a section of quiet conversation in a doctor’s office which brings to mind Atom Heart Mother period Pink Floyd. He also has a section of listed items sung with rhythm and repetition similar to a passage by the Blue Nile, and his crafty imagery of kids, boredom and graveyards is recognizably real to any English person.