The Soul of Spain
So, a decade ago the band Spain called it a day. At that point they had never quite delivered on the promise of their stunning debut, The Blue Moods Of Spain (1995). There were two other albums and a cherry-picking compilation. And there was never any duds from the band, but Blue Moods was just so perfect. Now Josh Haden has reformed the band and with The Soul of Spain he gets to a similar place, a similar sonic space, as Blue Moods.
Slow, never even close to being pushed toward breaking a sweat, Haden’s voice and songs are never dreary but often weary. There’s a purposeful slowness, these tortoise-tunes plod on and it might take a few spins before you hear the magic. But that’s what makes The Soul Of Spain such a worthwhile listen; an album that gorgeously sprawls, even if there are pop instincts propelling each song. Opener, Only One, feels like it could roll on forever. Now this is normally never a good quality in a song, but as this tune sneaks up, rolling, wafting, you become less aware of anything else happening around the music.
There’s a switch that’s flicked and everything else becomes the background. And as the album crawls, languid and lovely, a permanent slow-burn feel in place, there are subtle shifts in intensity. Because Your Love could almost sound like Ben Harper, if Ben Harper were actually able to write quality material. Haden’s heart-on-sleeve trick is endearing too. His song I Love You is simple and gorgeous. Never naff, never obvious.
The Soul of Spain feels like the right title too – for this is the soul, the grit, the essence of the band. And this is a form of soul music – heartfelt, beautiful ballads, guitar licks that lap gently to the side of the lyrics, words that mean something and sound lovely too. And when I’m not listening to this album I’m thinking about it. A little part of it has found its way into my soul. And then a big part of it. And I like that.