Arthur Alligood’s “One Silver Needle”

“Young singer-songwriters would do well to learn to how to craft simple words into deep metaphors and stories that are sewn together with mature vocals and subtle yet complimentary music as Alligood has accomplished on this record.” -CB

Cameron Barham
Arthur Alligood One Silver Needle

out of 10

Arthur Alligood
One Silver Needle
April 25, 2012
NewSong Recordings

Arthur Alligood threads together an excellent tapestry of songs with One Silver Needle. These songs are well-worn and familiar without ever being trite beckoning the listener to return again and again to experience new facets of the stories being told. As a result of winning the 2011 Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, Alligood was awarded the chance to work with Mikal Blue, a seasoned and proven music producer, to help create One Silver Needle. Blue masterfully arranges a subtle but well-stocked musical landscape in which to showcase Alligood’s melodic vocals and insightful lyrics. The more than able cast of musicians includes guitarist Michael Ward, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Jim Keltner who have all backed some of the best song-writers in the history of music (Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Lennon, Ben Harper… need I list more?).

Alligood is a master songwriter in his own right who has been crafting great songs for almost a decade. He has released three previous full-length albums, Formerly, Under the Gray, and the brilliant I Have Not Seen the Wind, as well as an EP and a live record. One Silver Needle is his most well-rounded and consistently excellent release to date.

The album opens with the confessional “Shouldn’t Be That Hard” in which Alligood declares, “I’m all to pieces and can’t seem to fit, Seeing no sense in going back at all, It’s a hard confession to give, Oh, this shouldn’t be that hard.” (.75 points)

“We Had to Try” tells the story of any and all who have grown up in a small town longing to see beyond the limited horizon of the county line feeling the gravitational pull of parts unknown. The chorus proclaims in hushed tones, “We had to try just to shake it off, all that dust, cross the sacred lines, We had to try just to find it out, this old world, hidden from our eyes, We had to try.” In one of the strongest lyrics on the album, the wanderers return: “Walking back we felt like soldiers, Coming home from the fight, Back to our hometown, We couldn’t leave that town.” Sometimes you have to leave something to see its value. The electric guitar and pedal steel beautifully fill in the spaces between the words helping to contour the longing ache at the heart of the song. (1 point)

One Silver Needle downshifts with the dreamy homage to ‘70’s song-writers’ relationship songs, “Bring My Heart Out” and the heart tugging country shuffle “One Silver Needle.” The title track tells the tale of a broken one asking of someone with the ability to make things new again, “You got all that golden thread and one silver needle, Think you might mend all my tears?” while realizing, “I ain’t done, tearing apart, but you knew that, from the start.” (1.75 points)

The pace picks back up with Daniel Lanois-like guitar contours in the questioning but hopeful “Darkness to Light” and the driving, musical centerpiece of the album “Go On Back.” The latter song tells the story of a wounded soul described as, “Bent and bleeding, On a try, House as empty, As her sister’s smile, Clouds hung like sheets, on the line, Nobody to talk her out, Nobody to put up a fight, She went knocking on the door of that double wide, Knocking on the door of that double wide, A fire only need one spark to fly.” (1.75 points)

“Why’d You Let Me Go Cold?” is a standard country-style relationship song with better than average lyrics (.75 points)

One Silver Needle closes with three quieter songs that feature some of Alligood’s finest writing and vocal performances in his whole body of work. “Coming For the Heart of Me” painfully laments as too many of us have experienced, “All the lies, The broken smiles, We lined up in a row, At every sign, We closed our eyes, We didn’t wanna know, Some things aren’t worth saving, Some things you gotta let go.” “Ochlockonee” tells the story of a self-proclaimed trick and traitor “with a heap of guilt to drown” who seeks solace in the afore-mentioned river. This song features a resplendent dynamic in both the vocals and the music that stand out among the other songs. The album saves the best lyrical crafting for last in “Right Time Rain.” Alligood wearily sings over a quietly strummed acoustic guitar and gentle piano chords, “Cold call, fingers crossed, Holding for a moment lost, it’s gone, Questions marks set the trap, Every period with a crooked catch, oh no, Now all you do is wonder when? You’re piling up your days, Counting every loss, Looking for a right time rain, Nothing’s what it was, Leaving has its cost, Looking for a right time rain, Still looking for a right time rain.” (2.75 points: “Right Time Rain” ends clumsily, one of the only production missteps)

The only thing missing from this album is a female backing vocal at various key points from the likes of Molly Parden or Emmylou Harris (-.5 deduction for this transgression).

Young singer-songwriters would do well to learn to how to craft simple words into deep metaphors and stories that are sewn together with mature vocals and subtle yet complimentary music as Alligood has accomplished on this record. One Silver Needle will prove to be one of the top singer-songwriter albums of the year.

-Cameron Barham, April 26, 2012