Lee Southall is the guitarist out of The Coral, recently relocated to the inner depths of the Calder Valley. This new locale has inspired him to move away from Coralled psychedelic indie and towards a kind of UK / US rural folk sound, complete with pedal steel. Iron In The Fire is a strong solo statement, released by the Wonderfulsound label.
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Lee Southall was once the guitarist in the Coral but once they temporarily split in 2012 he upped sticks from Hoylake in Merseyside and headed to the beautiful but bizarre valley enclave of Hebden Bridge. Immediately from the title track we can hear that Lee has soaked up his new surroundings. It has the sort of folk surroundings that might only be possible when you have year round access to moorland on your doorstep. It's this misty folk atmosphere that helps the record steer away from your standard guitar rock territory.
Southall's voice does a job for the team but lacks character to elevate the album above a pleasant enough tread through earnest guitar rock . 'Misty Mae' and 'Nobody Wins' will certainly appeal to fans of Shack and Michael Head but I'm left willing Southall to immerse himself further into his bleak surroundings. His guitar playing is exemplary throughout and this is a worthy effort but needs a little more edge to get it away from the middle of the road.
8/10 Lizzy Customer review, 19th May 2017
Having been a Coral fan at times, first album amazed me and Butterfly House became a Summer favourite, I was intrigued to hear a record by their former guitarist. Iron in the Fire is a solid debut. Lee Southall is an amazing guitarist; let's not forget he stepped into the breach when the Coral's other founding guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones left the band; and his live performances on their Butterfly House tour were something be to seen.
Southall's solo album is chock full of precise, glorious guitar work. Here, his customary electric is replaced by lush acoustic picking. The reference points are Bert Jansch and Davey Graham, but it's difficult to describe Iron in the Fire as 'folk', because there's so much early James Taylor in there. The more I thought about it in genre terms - where it would sit on the shelf - I struggled to find a neat classification.
Anyone who saw Southall play with The Coral would expect great guitar work. It's his voice and songwriting that surprise, and his career in The Coral gave little hint of this. Bill Ryder-Jones is 3 albums in to his solo career and he lacks the vocal range Southall displays on this debut. There's some finely crafted songs on this 11 track album. Blue Skies is a heartbreaker that shows off the clarity of his vocal, Yesterday Morning and Spread your Wings have a country feel, while Under the Weather and In Accordance are heavier, darker offerings. It's a slow burner of an album, but trust me the melodies do get under your skin. A very promising debut in my opinion.
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