Richard Ashcroft: Natural Rebel review – roots rocking for car journeys everywhere

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There’s no shame in drivetime. Drivetime music has a job to do, and its success or failure is gauged by whether it performs that job: does it comfort? Will it soothe you in an endless jam and uplift you on an open road? Music that comforts is much undervalued, because its virtues seem so everyday. So it’s not intended as criticism to say that Richard Ashcroft’s fifth solo album is a drivetime record: it slides past the window like a sunlit wheat field. Ashcroft has sanded off almost all the edges: where his last record nodded vaguely in the direction of electronica, this one hugs at the roots-rocker end of his musical palette: pedal steels and acoustics are much in evidence.

Naturally, the lyrics are hokum. “They’re dancing in a pool down from your room / A pool that my tears have formed,” Ashcroft offers on Birds Fly, like a 14-year-old on a package holiday who was blanked at the salad bar by Lily from Telford and Why Doesn’t Anything Good Ever Happen to Me?

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