Blanco White’s new album, On the Other Side, is singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist John Edwards’ most integrated project, the culmination of a style introduced on previous singles and EPs, including 2018’s The Nocturne. Like his possible progenitor David Gray, Edwards navigates themes of romance and loss, vocals infused with longing and melancholy. Well-textured instrumentation contrasts effectively with earthy rhythms.
The title song and “I Belong to You” feature Edwards’ voice rising from and sinking into a delicately layered soundscape. “All That Matters” offers a slightly more ebullient tempo while remaining true to Edwards’ airy leanings. “Samara” opens with a jazzy guitar lick, segueing into a staccato strum that highlights the fluidity of Edwards’ vocal. With “Papillon,” Edwards steers into a folksier territory, his phrasing reminiscent of a low-key Morrissey. “The truth turns the needle true north / and trusts us to follow its course,” he sings, offering a portrait of the archetypal seeker.
The relative starkness of “Olalla” brings to mind Ben Harper’s stripped-down “Uneven Days.” “There’s a story that needs to be told,” Edwards reminds us, reaching for optimism. “Somebody told me to believe …” he continues, though it’s uncertain whether he manages to do so. The sprawling “Mano a Mano” closes the project on a compellingly orchestral and exotic note, Edwards singing in Spanish. Percussive flourishes by Fred Claridge and Matt Ingram are notable, as are backup vocals by MAVICA (her single “Fire” from 2019’s Gone is worth a listen).
If there’s a problem with On the Other Side, it’s that Edwards’ palette is perhaps a bit narrow. More significant variations in pace, tone, and melody would’ve expanded the album’s aesthetic range and more consummately engaged a listener. That said, On the Other Side leaves a singular and lasting impression. In this way, Edwards asserts a sonic brand, even if, going forward, it may be important for him to broaden his musical MO.