DROMA Records have had a busy 2016. With releases from Don’t Call Me Ishmael and The Taskers already this year, Jack Tasker and co. are about to deliver yet another quality record, in the form of Chris J Venables.
‘Home to me’ is a four track EP, from Stafford-born acoustic singer/songwriter Chris Venables. Much like all releases from DROMA, it carries a very personal feel to it, with the whole thing being recorded within five hours on one sunny day in August. That means that most of what you hear, is actually the first take.
‘Love You Freely’, the first single from the EP, is a quiet acoustic number featuring a truly beautiful combination of instruments, that work together like clockwork. Having never heard of Venables and his music before, I was instantly struck by the way his lyrics managed to crawl into my heart. It’s hard not to feel something though, as his feather light vocals sing heartfelt prose, with vocal accompaniment from Sophie Bret Tasker (The Taskers/Bare John/TMC). ‘Hold on to This’ is in relatively the same vain, although this time its just Venables providing the easy listening bliss. ‘Hold on to This’ is short, soft and wonderful and it gives meaning to real music.
The penultimate track ‘Alone Together’, is most definitely something to listen to on a long journey whilst watching the world wizz by, as you make your way across the country. Venables’ poetic writing is just as poignant here as before, making him one of the most real lyricists I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing about. This track is set at a slightly quicker pace than the other tracks on the EP, helped by SBT’s plodding cajon rhythm and JT’s additional electric guitar. I think this may be my favourite track from ‘Home to me’, although it would be extremely hard to dislike any tracks from the EP. Venables is too likeable and DROMA are just too good.
The final track and the only cover on the record, is the traditional American folk song ‘The Old Churchyard’. It appears that DROMA is even more of combined effort than even I believed, with Don’t Call Me Ishmael’s very own Gary Wilcox stepping in to join SBT in providing harmonies, that really set the mood of the track. Before that though, ‘The Old Churchyard’ begins with the echoey voice of JT and the buzz of a string, before Venables sharply exhales and then re-starts, reminding you of just how raw this is.
Sometimes, it’s easy to lose the real meaning of a song or an album, when it’s been refined and recorded repeatedly, in order to get that perfect sound. But the nature of DROMA and the direction in which Venables clearly wanted his EP to walk, has ensured that perfection has been achieved in the simplest and most natural way possible.
‘Home to me’ makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. It makes me want to cry and it makes me want to smile, but more than anything, it makes me want to hear more from Chris J Venables, an artist I’ve only come across through writing this review. His voice is uniquely delicate, making you feel as though you’re looking directly into the depths of his soul, whilst his thought provoking lyrics leave you with a lot to ponder. In short, Chris J Venables is a new favourite and it appears that DROMA can do no wrong.