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Robert Chaney: Cracked Picture Frames

Bloody but unbowed, Chaney’s debut tells disturbing stories from the dark side.

You’d be forgiven for not pulling up the chair next to Robert Chaney at a dinner party. To say his gaze is baleful is to underestimate it somewhat, though it’s worth working your way past the cheerless façade to songs that are the lyrical equivalent of a motorway pile-up – grotesque, but you can’t look away.

Which is not to deny them their fragile beauty: stripped back they may be, but they have a grace and ear for a story much missed among most contemporary songwriters. Chaney has the ruddy charm of a two-bit Raymond Carver, plus it helps that he’s clearly heartbroken. At his best, he’s exceptional, especially when he’s driving home the lyrics from a song like The Morning After: ’And though you show you’re fond in part, I do believe to own your heart, is something just like trying to own the seasons.’