It's not often you find a songwriter turning to the Bible or Dante for material but this is what the talented song-writer Richard Townend has bravely done with his latest album 'The 7 Deadly Sins'. I say bravely - not because the catholics have been arguing about them ever since Dante came up with his Purgatory to Paradise mountain- but because it is one of those subjects on which everyone has an opinion. We can all cheerfully own up to a sin or a vice – or, if necessary, innocently profess to not encountering any of them.
The album rather usefully comes with a printed version of the lyrics and some background as to the writer's journey to understanding the sins. This is a sensible move by Richard as he has taken on a complex subject, given it his beady song-writer's eye and produced a fascinating sidelong alternative take on all of them. The lyrics are crucial, smart and dead centre. If you look carefully - you can have a quite small sin, which, for all I know, is probably not as bad.
Greed, for example, is an interesting take on the 'blood diamond' trade, whereas Envy homes in on a prisoner serving time, with a lyric full of bitter sentiment about how destructive this sin can be.
For me a stand out track is his cynical piece on Lust which not only characterises this sin as maybe 'Fifteeen Minutes' of passion but is the best example of the fine musicianship that runs throughout the album. Here Greg Camburn is given full licence to let his sax roam free beautifully in an arrangement that takes its time and winds its way around the telling lyrics with Richard's guitar setting the tone. All the tracks demonstrate thoughtful arrangements allowing everyone a piece of the action.
I am sure that somewhere I have heard Richard acknowledge Herbie Hancock's influence and certainly there is a cool jazz vibe present all through this album making it readily accessible to a far wider audience than is usual for Richard or his band The Mighty Bosscats.
Without doubt, the album works at two levels. He has produced an articulate and interesting snapshot of those seven sins that pursue us wherever we go and then again this is a fine production that brings to our speakers, superb musicianship, a delightful cool mix of blues, swing and jazz influences all embraced by Richard's mellow singing voice.