Daniel Champagne is a skilled guitar player and no mean lyricist. He has showed that he is capable of hushing a pub crowd, both with the dexterity of his playing and in telling stories of yearning through song, so one would expect his latest album to be a fine thing … and it is.
If there is more energy evident in his live performances than on The Gypsy Moon (Volume 1), that is often the case with studio work. Champagne’s music is polished stuff, its lyrics presenting scenarios of love without resorting to cliché. It does not hurt that they are often played out across Australian landscapes. That is a mode that is sometimes overworked in Australian music but it also has an honourable rather than jingoistic tradition – indeed, it is one that has been chosen by numerous respected artists in the past and not least because it prefers familiar references and atmospherics to foreign motifs.
The eight tracks on the album are self-penned except for “Deeper Well”, which successfully lifts the tempo compared with Emmylou Harris’s original, more sombre version. “Highway’s Hold” features the judicious addition of strings to underline the melancholic mood, but without lapsing into saccharine, and “Heart Like This” rides a rolling beat that swells and then subsides into a quieter passage with brushed snare drum, Mikaela Atkins contributing sweet guest vocals.
In the current fashion, Champagne’s singing can be a little clipped and the O sounds also tend to be closed into Oooos (such as “Go-ooo”). It’s a bit Strine and a wee bit strained but it’s what the market likes. His guitar work is understated but shines; spare when the feeling in the song is best laid bare, but complex and lively when the song demands.
Champagne is a technically accomplished artist with a real feel for his music and faith in his own path. He eschews showiness for its own sake, bringing a considered and appealing approach to the tracks on The Gypsy Moon (Volume 1). Catch him live, too, if you can.
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