MID AIR by Paul Buchanan (2012)
There are some people in popular music who just wouldn’t get away with the lack of musical output that Paul Buchanan has over the last 25 years or more. However, the fact that he is afforded that luxury by a very loyal and patient public tells you everything about the man and the place he holds in the hearts of many.
Well, we have all been rewarded for this stubborn patience with this absolute gem of an album.
Let’s get a few things straight at the outset; this piece of music won’t “get the party started” nor will it have you “dancing in the street”. It is a record for the “wee small hours” much in the same way that it was conceived.
As Buchanan has mentioned in the last few weeks and months leading up to its release, this record is a culmination of late night thoughts and memories composed at a time in the morning when he was at his most vulnerable.
The results are quite astonishing.
It’s a voice and piano album, his voice sounding beautifully battered and bruised like never before and the piano taking its rightful place just behind the vocals. From the first note of the opening title track Mid Air, and its hushed intimacy, it is clear this is no ordinary record.
He wants you to “dance along the edge with me and we’ll go as far as we can see” on My True Country, romantic sentiments that are echoed throughout this 36 minute masterpiece.
The imagery brought to mind when he sings Wedding Party and Half The World, you can only wonder at, but wonder you do. The sparse piano and the lone trumpet on the plaintive I Remember You is a song that is so simple yet delivers an almost unbearable poignancy.
The highlight for me is the truly moving After Dark. It’s the longest track on the album and the most stunning. Again, another restrained piano accompanied by a solo trumpet combine to create a heart wrenching finale. Listen to Buchanan’s voice almost give way near the end…
There are 14 tracks here, all evoking emotions, creating memories and moments that you might never be able to or want to forget.
That something so fragile can be so powerful, is simply testament to its inspirational creator.
There may be those who will feel this album too sparse – possibly even too downbeat in style – at a time of year when we yearn for uplifting beats and sunshine songs, however I can only say that they will be failing to “get it”. It’s music at its most intimate, at its most spine tingling and at its most rewarding. You can feel euphoria in one song and utter despair in the next.
If you need a soundtrack to heartache but curiously one that also offers optimism and hope then this is the one. Mid Air is best listened to over and over, and then over again; what unfolds is nothing short of a work of art.
If you are already a Blue Nile fan, I’m sure you may already have bought this or are going to, however if you’re not, and curious, then I urge you to buy, download, beg, borrow or steal it.
It’s not stretching the imagination to say that with this album Paul Buchanan has just elevated himself to a league where only such geniuses as Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison & Paul Simon reside.
A sublime piece of music that can take its place at the top table and sit there forever more.