Chris J Connolly – ‘Moving Maps’

By Chris Hilson

Of all the scenes and sub-genres that fill up the wider alternative music movement, the field of solo artist is particularly crowded. Not only do you have established solo acts, you also have to compete with a multitude of musicians who release music away from their main band. You really don’t have to look very far at all for examples of singers, guitarists, bassists, and drummers, that have released solo material at some point in their career.

Chris J Connolly however has no such distractions to get in the way, allowing him to create the music he wants when he wants. ‘Moving Maps’ follows 2015’s debut album ‘Flying Lessons’ and it picks up fairly directly from where Chris left off two years ago. If you do need an introduction, ‘Fight At The End’ provides a useful indication of what to expect, as country-tinged guitars drift by and Chris’ laid-back vocal delivery flows over the top.

The Americana influence runs throughout every part of ‘Moving Maps’ and is indicative of just how much the musical culture of Chris’ adopted homeland means to him. Whilst the album borrows heavily from the roots of country and bluegrass, it’s done with genuine respect and admiration. The authenticity of ‘The Sun’ instantly transports you to the hot and dusty plains of the American west, whereas the twanging guitars of ‘The Nineteen Eighties’ will make you wish you were lazing about outside on a hot summer’s evening with a cold beer in hand.

Although Chris does bounce a few new ideas around the album he largely sticks to what he knows. Unfortunately the meandering structures of many songs leaves ‘Moving Maps’ with a lack of energy and spark to make an instant impression, with tracks like ‘Tornado’ only showing their appeal after several listens.

Chris should be commended not only for steering well clear of any gimmicks or musical fads, but also for his ability to write touching and heartfelt songs, like ‘Grey Boxes’. By offering up his innermost thoughts and feelings, the album delivers in lyrical honesty, though it often lacks in musical variety. The sense of familiarity that sets in after a few songs proves too hard to shake and leaves ‘Moving Maps’ struggling to connect.

CHRIS HILSON

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