You can look at sensitive male singer-songwriters in a couple of ways: one, shy, needy, knock-kneed types too emotionally illiterate and scared of the world to express themselves in any other way than from behind a gently strummed acoustic guitar, or two, disenchanted characters who have seen and recognise the world, turn their back on it and stubbornly continue to recognise the beauty of the things we are routinely encouraged to package onto postcards and into souvenir boxes. Soft reminders of the truth you are missing, anvils wrapped in foam. Dylan Ware is firmly in the latter category, and his album ‘Wolfsongbird’ contains 18 of these dark tranquilisers.
Originally from New Zealand, Ware has been resident in Istanbul for around a decade, and sets himself outside of the cities’ alternative scene, whilst sometimes to be seen engaging (maybe beveraging) within it. Lest you mistake him for some sobbing wallflower, Ware is an astute humanitarian, eschewing soft-minded romantic woolly-headedness for a pretty hardcore approach to almost any contemporary issue you care to mention, from Israel to abortion, US foreign policy to consumerism. It’s in his songs where he will let you relax and drift on down the stream.
Within this gently minimalistic, mellow field, comparisons are as natural as the sound, particularly when they are as classy as these. Sometimes accompanying Ware’s gentle delivery and fluidly picked guitar is the very dramatic orchestration of collaborator Luc Glaister (best on the incongruently-named ‘Sweet Lovin’ Lady’, in all it’s forms here. DW’s voice on this steps into the fire in some kind of Captain Beefheart experiment, with subjective results.) Another high point is ‘The Rose and The Moon’, all Nick Cave spookiness and Tindersticks grace, the refrain of what sounds like ‘Ooh-aah, Father’ hypnotising you on it’s own magic mountain.
‘Gold’ is a confident, (comparatively) cheerful and all too short mini-masterpiece, Ware coming on all Steve Harley and Ed Harcourt, and leaving you smiling and stranded after a couple of minutes. Elsewhere, the songwriter sticks to elegant, symathetically aloof territory, with tracks like ‘The Touch Of Time’ and ‘Black Star’ resonating with Nick Drake, Wilco, Iron & Wine, Smog, and even The Flaming Lips, were DW inclined to go down the psychedelic, experimental tunnel (which could be a great idea).
Dylan Ware will sit with you on the top of a hill or by the shore of the sea, and whether inebriated or straight (the music supports both), the songs will soothe, while the lyrics will remind you of the beauty we continue to be obliged to ignore. The hermit-like but erudite Ware in the future may follow his songs into the light – often reflected in Glaisters’ arrangements – or he may go deeper into his cave, turning his idealistic back on a system he deplores. Well it is deplorable indeed, and this collection of honest, tender and heartfelt music reminds you of when things at least seemed a little more just.