Last year James Lewis died. An old friend of former Genesis singer Ray Wilson — the two lived together when Wilson moved to Edinburgh as an 18-year-old — he’d been confined to a wheelchair since breaking his neck in a swimming pool accident, which he drove off a harbour wall and into the sea. The largely acoustic Song For A Friend tries to make sense of this tragedy and tell other personal tales, and is suffused with an aching, elegiac sadness. That’s not to say it’s miserable. It isn’t.
The stripped-back recordings give Wilson’s rich voice room to breathe, and the tales he spins are filled with optimism even when the subject matter is bleak. A less-is-more approach is taken throughout, and it’s often the thoughtful little touches from the album’s arranger, Stiltskin guitarist Uwe Metzler, that lift the album up if it’s ever in danger of becoming maudlin. The unexpected banjo and pedal steel flourish on Over Mr Dead Body is beguiling, and the sudden appearance of drums on How Long Is Too Long give the track an authority it might not otherwise possess. It all rounds off with a gently sweeping, rather sanguine cover of Pink Floyd’s High Hopes.