Released in amongst the sparkle and glitter of the Christmas season, Stuart Landon’s EP ‘Outmanned, Never Outgunned’ may have been missed by some. It is too good to let it pass by unnoticed however. If you’re preparing to pack away that festive playlist for another year, might I suggest replacing it with this fine record of country-rock from one of the UK’s best male vocalists.
There is a real ‘70s feel to the opening track ‘Midnight Man’. With a delectable guitar riff appearing throughout and a tinge of classic Garth Brooks in the overall sound, it is difficult to not fall in love with this song immediately. In fact, it is hard not to fall in love with any of the tracks to one extent or another on this EP. ‘Paradise’ is a wonderfully poetic piece, with a sweet sound that is particularly apt for this time of year – a piece of music with which to reflect on and look ahead to a new year.
One can’t help but notice the difference between Landon’s recorded material and his live performance. For instance, ‘I Can’t Take It Anymore’ is delivered with much less force here. The upbeat instrumentals juxtapose the soul-draining character in the chorus. As a result, the song takes on a lighter tone – a resigned sadness rather than embittered anger. Similarly, ‘Three Days’ finds him singing in much lighter and smoother tones. This is in contrast to the rough and gritty vocals which I have experienced in his live set, and which have seen him compared to Chris Stapleton. Such a difference is no bad thing necessarily. It simply makes for a different interpretation of the song.
This is very true when it comes to ‘Shatter Like Glass’. This song completely bowled me over when I first heard it performed by Landon with his band ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’. The full band piece is something to admire, the backing vocals and prominence of the instruments helping to give the song a powerful punch. On ‘Outmanned…’ however, we find a stripped back version that means the focus is much more on Landon’s voice. As a result, the piercing lyrics take on an even greater intensity. The chorus, in particular, is searing in its emotion. Whichever way you listen to it, there is no doubt that this is a top-class song.
Landon brings the EP to a close with the masterfully crafted ‘Breaking Down’. This is a song that oozes quality. It is incredibly touching, soulful and tender in both its lyrics and sound. It perfectly encapsulates the enigma of Landon, whose hard rock exterior disguises an emotional fragility. There is a whole lot more to this guy than the blazing guitar on the EP’s cover suggests. ‘Outmanned, Never Outgunned’ is replete with lyrical excellence and inspired musical arrangements. I can think of no better way to start 2019 than by giving it a listen.
Review by Gaz Williams