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Brian Mathew - Old Flames (self-released)

28 June 2024

It is easy to hear the decades, perhaps even centuries, of folk traditions that “Old Flames” is built on, but it is the modern infusions, the pop accessibility and the upbeat indie sensibilities that make this song more about the here-and-now that part of what has gone before it.

And, like all folk songs worth their salt, there is no small amount of wisdom, not to mention wit, to be found here as Brian Mathew muses on the realisation that old flames rarely light the path to the future. The past should stay in the past, and its influence on any of your future decisions rarely results in anything for the better.

“Old Flames” is the sound of folk music in the modern setting. It is both relevant and accessible. It has something to say, but that message is also wrapped in some scintillating sonics—deftly picked guitar, gentle beats, lilting vibes, and a vocal delivery that is wonderfully infectious (you’ll be singing along with this before it’s even halfway through, believe me).

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the song, although by far the most arbitrary too, in many ways, is that when I listened to this on one of those world-crushing, industry-destroying streaming platforms they have nowadays, the “if you like that, you’ll like this” recommendation that followed was for the superb Frank Turner. If even the algorithms of modern music tech are saying that your music is in the same ballpark as his, then you should take that as a compliment. Perhaps even the greatest compliment that there is for a modern folk music peddler. And if you don’t recognise the name (shame on you), do something about that immediately!