A break-up album can be the most honest and personal album of a musician’s career. I feel an artist is at their best when they are going through the worst of times, it’s when they have something to truly write about. A relationship breakdown, like a bereavement, can open the emotional and creative floodgates like no other experience, and it can be the best of therapies in the darkest of times.
So, when Ginger Wildheart (and his faithful four-legged companion Maggie) retreated to a caravan in the wilds to write the follow up to the confessional ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’ album, the pen did flow as did the whiskey, and ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’ was born.
Originally rush released as a 10-track album by Round Records back in 2018 to meet pre-order deadlines, this collection of heartfelt, soul-searching tunes has been lovingly re-mixed, re-sequenced and beefed up with 5 extra songs recorded at the same sessions, but not finished in time for release. The album now gets a proper worldwide release on Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records label, a place that sees our man now rub shoulders with other RPM favourites such as Ryan Hamilton, Jesse Malin and Wyldlife.
Track wise and feel wise, the reshuffle turns this album on its head quite literally. The album now opens with the upbeat vibes of ‘Why Aye’, a song of hope and confidence in moving forward. That now leaves the beautiful, acoustic sermonette ‘May The Restless Find Peace’ to close things up. In hindsight, a more fitting epilogue to the story than an introduction. It now feels like the song has its rightful place and harmony has been restored in the world.
It’s interesting to note that a friend of mine (who is not a big Wildhearts lover) commented that Ginger sings in his natural accent on his solo material, and that’s something I never noticed before, but I must say the Geordie twang is more prominent on this album. And it maybe gives more of a sense of locality and a big dose of Northern charm that fits well with the country-tinged direction in which Ginger is heading.
‘I Love You So Much I’m Leaving’ is a euphoric high for dark times. A song that offers hope and contemplation in equal measures. A sound that features pedal steel and acoustic guitars, it’s the country-tinged direction we assume he will take further with The Sinners album (to be released later this year). Another album highlight is the acoustic driven ‘You Will Let Me Down Again’. Commercial and worthy of single status, it flows along on a summer breeze with lazy, hazy backing vocals courtesy of Emily Ewing.
Of the new songs, the standout is the newbie single ‘Stalemate’, which along with the title track could have fitted nicely on the ‘555%’ triple album. A signature Ginger melody and a radio friendly chorus that will stick in the subconscious, never to be removed. ‘Detachment’ has a similar melody to ‘The Words Are Gonna Have To Wait’ and ‘No Regrets’ has an almost Greg Lake seasonal feel to it.
Elsewhere ‘I Don’t Wanna Work On This Song No More’ is one of those fun, studio jams that pilfers from The Wurzels as much as it does from The Levellers, and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is a tongue-in-cheek romp that raises a smile or two.
Back sometime in the mid 90’s the Wildhearts leader claimed that “some of the best of me plans have been laid, and some of me best moments used”. Well, fast forward to 2022 and we find the man re-releasing his 7th (don’t quote me on that!) solo album and it seems he still has some of his best moments left in the bag.
The heart wrenching ‘A Better Love’ features a beautiful piano-led first chorus that is so gentle and fragile, it feels like any intrusion would destroy the song forever. Heart on sleeve, a love song pure and simple that implores you to hold on tightly to the one you love and never let them go.
‘Sweet Wonderlust’ is pure countrified pop with a killer chorus the likes of Nashville can never deliver. And ‘There Is A House’ is a contemplative, folky ditty along the same lines as ‘If You Find Yourself In London Town’. Full of tinkling ivories, stark percussion and creative space, it might just help heal the broken hearted…just a little bit.
While as standalone tracks the additional songs may not be the strongest on offer, they seem perfect in the context of ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’ as a whole listening experience. And now I feel relistening to the original record, it will always feel like there is something missing.
A release designed to get the talents of one of the UK’s best kept secrets out to a wider audience. ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’ is a country-tinged break-up album that is as much a therapy for the artist as it is joyful, masterful listen for fans both old and new. An album worth revisiting if you’ve been here before and also worth forwarding to those who haven’t. Let’s help spread the word.
Author: Ben Hughes