Where's The Fire - Secrets and Lies

"Russell is a story-teller" an album preview by Tony Krimzon

Release date November 8th

Russell Gibb has been in and out of the Shrewsbury music scene for many years and has worked with many bands. Some names that immediately come to mind are the Katz, Easy Money, Tall Stories and currently, Upfront. Russ is the neat, clean and tidy, quiet one that always has a smile on his face. 

Russell is a story-teller in the old-skool way of song-writing, aka, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and even Paddy McAloon, of Prefab Sprout fame. As such, each song creates it's own visual impact within the listener of precisely what the song is about. In keeping with the old-skool tradition of story-telling, the lyric is the bit that tells the story and on this album, Russ's vocals definitely get the message of the songs across in a manner sympathetic.

Almost entirely self-produced, engineered and recorded by Russell at Gravity Studios, the album was mixed and mastered by both Russell at Gravity Studios and Aled Roberts at AMR Studios.  Aled co-produced some of the songs and provided additional musical input. Co-writer on four songs, Danny Treherne, also contributes guitars and bass.  Chas Watkin, also from cover band Upfront, made a guest lead guitar appearance on Where Does That Leave Me? , as did George Treherne on Like Me.

Most of the songs were written and recorded with acoustic guitar, then Russ has set about using modern production techniques, including sampling and looping as well as playing "live" with each song. There are some lush piano parts and other keyboard sample sounds that sit sweet within the mix. Drums are all programmed and other percussion added live. 

Overall this is a clever, adept and enjoyable production of twelve well-penned songs.

Opening with an instantly memorable guitar riff in the Sum 41 tradition,
 Like Me, rockets through a familiar pop-rock format. The massive guitars and energy-packed performance are bouncing over excellently programmed drums. Excellent it must be said, as this programming is as good as it gets. Fills, ghost strokes, dynamic etc., they're all in there so it is barely recognizable that this has not been played by an A-grade drummer. No instrumental section to this song, instead, an era/genre-typical sonic drop during the middle 8 expectedly gives rise  to increased dynamism for the final verse and chorus. Nice
The second song, Lies, occupies a different sonic space. This song is much more gentle and the arrangement and overall feel is not unlike some of Nik Kershaw's "Human Racing" album, a very big hit in the '80s. A pleasing dynamic change occurs mid-song in which Russ makes use of good post-production techniques enhancing the harmony voice considerably. 
Track 3, Method in Your Madness, is uptempo, bounces along and has 'Chas and Dave' elements to it. A little bit country, almost bordering on bluegrass, definitely a mover.

It is becoming apparent that for arrangement and production, Russ is not going to be resricted by having to stay within a specific genre but is happy explore the depths of his many years of experience for the sake of the song.  

It's Never Been So Easy, co-written with Danny Treherne, is a thoughtful song which features piano played in a Nicky Hopkins style, a slightly over-busy drum arrangement, and maybe thanks to some backing vocals and the piano, track four has a decidely Rolling Stones feel to it .

And so it continues, arrangements and production to suit each song, and each song will bring back a memory of a situation that you understand or a feeling that you recognize, but  then you're not sure from where nor from when. 

Beautiful Town, another of the songs co-written is very pretty and features a nicely picked acoustic guitar and balanced harmony voices. I like to think that this is written about our own home town, Shrewsbury and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this song weren't picked up by Radio Shropshire and other interested parties to use as a part of their various campaigns. 

Where's The Fire (Russ and Danny), released their first album, Against The Grain, last year and this their second, is a better sounding recording, with more accomplished production, and with arrangements and instrumentation that although might be just a little bit dated, particularly reminiscent of '80s bands and sounds , they are none-the-less, pleasantly combined. Russ's lyrics tell stories about familiar situations which are fitted into familiar song structures and as the music is for the most part, in keeping with the content  of the lyric, there are no major surprises. That's a good thing in that each song brings with it it's own familiarity. We all know however, that being immediately familiar can sometimes be frowned upon causing songs to be too be easily over-looked or dismissed.

With this collection of songs Russ, Danny and others have unearthed some little treasures, little sparkles that you'll want to hear again and again.

The 12-song, 13-track, album Secrets and Lies will be released to the public on November 8th and will be well worth spending a few quid on ...