Rivers In My Mind is the arresting debut solo album from Snails songwriter Dan Weltman, branching away from his band’s quicksilver psych-pop into darker emotional terrain while retaining the same gift for a melody that seeds and blooms in the listener’s memory. Ranging widely through folk, country and blues influences, many of these songs feel like well-worn classics in those idioms, until a surprise lyrical turn or sidestepping chord change snaps the attention back to a truly unique and contemporary voice.
A deeply personal and at times emotionally raw album, its 9 songs emerged from early-pandemic, coinciding with a relocation to deserted Devon countryside from the city – also amid the final throes of a faltering relationship. With nothing to do but pace the hills of nearby Dartmoor and smoke endless roll-ups, the search for respite from panic attacks and inner turmoil began. “I needed strong and simple songs, I knew that,” the again Bristol-based Weltman says. “Songs like thick logs I could then lash together to form an escape vessel, heading to who-knew-where. I’d turned to music for catharsis before but this was a whole other level. I’d sunk to a depth I really wasn’t sure how to return from. But the slow rising up, when it came, was profound and humbling.” And so, despite this raw material of grief, the listener is guided expertly along eddies of dark humour and eventually joy. Sudden flashes of hope appear along the way, like sunlight blinding in muddy puddles. “Win or lose, I’ll have something to sing to myself…” he self-consoles on album opener ‘Bound Away.’
Released by Glass Modern and produced by Lukas Drinkwater (Emily Barker), Weltman filters american influences (1960’s Greenwich Village via 1970’s widescreen country) through the same gently surreal English lens once peered into by Ray Davies, Bill Fay and Nick Drake among others. The result is an at-times heady carousel of unguarded emotions, as he explains: “I’d never before been this comically lonely, heartbroken and needing of solace. My only choice was to surrender, drop all my bullshit and start again from zero.” Meanwhile, trumpet, accordion, pedal steel and piano add confident but restrained colour to Weltman’s unvarnished vocals and finger-picked Martin parlour guitar.
Lead single ‘Nobody’s Fault’ is a lurching, bittersweet waltz, obsessively raking over the embers of lost love. “It’s me making fun of myself, pushing the self-pity as far as I could. I like how the rhythm sways a little drunkenly, and obviously there are a few nods to Leonard Cohen in the mandolins, accordion and twanging jaw harps – an extension of the indulgence in the lyrics and just having fun in the studio grabbing instruments.”
Ironically, from the heat of these strange, dislocated depths arrives a mature and shapeshifting album of transfixing honesty to which many might connect. “Sadness alone is never enough for a song unfortunately,” Dan observes. “But with persistence it can be shaped and polished into a more interesting melancholy. That’s what I aimed for here. I’m always trying to write songs that can outgrow me and be useful to others, as well as entertain of course.”
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