Findlay Brown – Love Will Find You
British folk singer effectively recasts himself as a lovelorn ‘50s rocker
There’s something ersatz in Bernard Butler’s throwback production, but his Stax-inflected work with Duffy on Rockferry and now his Roy Orbison styled work with Findlay Brown certainly can press emotional buttons. Judging by Brown’s folky, singer-songwriter debut Separated by the Sea, his reincarnation as a 50s-influence balladeer is a surprise. The quiet acoustic fingerpicking and introspective vocals of his debut are replaced here with orchestral rock arrangements and crooning vocals. The opening “Love Will Find You” charges from the gate on a Brill Building-styled baion beat and stops dramatically for a “Be My Baby” inspired kick drum break. Brown sounds at home amid the soaring strings, with enough echo on his voice to make him tower over the arrangement. It sounds like the recreations of That Thing You Do, crossing the rising melody of “My World is Over” with the rhythm and arrangement of “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart.”
Brown’s ten originals deliver on troubled titles like “Nobody Cares,” “Teardrops Lost in the Rain” and “If I Could Do it Again.” Butler has more than one vintage production trick in his bag as he adds soulful string trills to the upbeat “All That I Have.” But unlike a Chris Isaak album, you’ll never forget this is a modern production. That may be a blessing for radio play, but it keeps some of the tracks from connecting with the warmth of their period inspirations. “That’s Right” has an Everly Brothers’ vigor in its vocal, but the guitar is too modern to fully convert on the rockabilly beat, and the ballad “Teardrops Lost in the Rain” has 50s-styled backing vocals and a baritone guitar but the overall effect is still up-to-date.
If you fell in love with the single, you’ll find its mood echoing through the rest of the album in melodic lines, strummed acoustic guitars and touches of percussion, but its effect is muted by contemporary production. Butler can strike an effective balance between retro and modern, as with Duffy, the album’s single and a few other tracks, but often it feels like he’s compromised for the sake of commercial concerns. The more he and Brown throw in with the period, on the steel-lined ballad “If I Could Do It Again,” the double-tracked vocal of “I Still Want You” and the country-soul “I Had a Dream,” the more they soar. The rest will work for younger listeners who will be excited by the drama of ‘50s rock without being put off by the less inventive modern touches.