William the Conqueror – Maverick Thinker
Cornwall-based folk-blues trio William the Conqueror have gone big on their third album Maverick Thinker. Previous album Proud Disturber of the Peace was made in Ruarri Joseph’s garage, whereas this album was recorded in the famous LA Studio Sound City. It is a decision that partially pays off, with the electric second half outweighing the first to make the record and band a worthwhile listen.
With the move to the West Coast comes an evolution of the sound that is clear straight away in album opener Move On. There is a bluesy weightiness that acts as the aural foundation to the album and is at its most memorable when it morphs into fast-paced rock. Heavier tracks like Reasons (a nod to the earlier – and superior – Kings of Leon sound) and Americana-stomper Wake Up belie the group’s folk-blues background. Indeed, the only folk influence vaguely apparent is in some lyrical flourishes that recall the poetic style of Bob Dylan.
Sometimes, though, those lyrics are not supported by a muscular lead vocal: the decision to foreground Joseph’s singing throughout sometimes exposes his restricted range. As such, the tenderness of mid-album ballad Quiet Life and the groovy blues of second track The Deep End are let down by languid, unmemorable melodies.
The track listing is well-crafted, though, so these disappointments are soon dispelled. In fact, there are slower numbers that soothe rather than sedate the listener. The countrified Jesus Died a Young Man and whiskey blues feel of Suddenly Scared (24 Storeys High) soak up the chilled West Coast vibe, and add a comforting, chilled glow that complements the rockier songs.
Overall, it is an album with strength, lyrical depth and cool singles. The weak Side One means Maverick Thinker will struggle to be remembered as a Sound City-produced classic. But even the greats who have recorded there can be forgiven for their shakier moments.
Maverick Thinker is released on 5th February 2021. For further information or to order the album visit William the Conqueror’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Move On here: