Label: Gwymon Release date: 21/06/10 Link: Amazon Richard James, bass player and founding member of the defunct Welsh prog-rock band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, has stepped into the spotlight since the band’s dismemberment. We Went Riding is the follow up to his 2006 critically acclaimed debut The Seven Sleepers Den and feels like a natural progression. It is a much more expansive and layered record than his debut and it is evident that James has made a commendable attempt to push things forward for the notoriously ‘difficult second album’. At the same time, however, he has been careful not change things up too much and risk alienating his loyal fans – while WWR is a step up the evolutionary ladder for James, it is still, without doubt, a Richard James LP. Opening with the simplest of love songs, a gentle finger picked acoustic guitar is the sound-bed for his distinctive fuzzy vocal as he sings of his adoration for a girl named 'Avaline'. The song subtly builds into a melancholic, dreamy wistfulness which serves as a perfect stepping stone between his debut album and this one. From here on James dips into one or two other genres, taking a step outside of his comfort zone every so often. ‘Blues (Hey Hey Hey)’ is all swagger and gusto, eventually expanding into a turbulent melee of sound, while ‘Yes, Her Smile’s Like A Rose’ is something approaching all out, banjo fuelled country – only with a Welsh accent! While it is difficult to criticise someone for experimenting with their sound, the stand out moments on this record remain the ones that are kept simple. The acoustic guitar, the slightly husky vocal, the effortless, unpretentious lyrics – these are things that Richard James does best and it is on the tracks that he sticks to that blueprint, that he really does shine. ‘Said I’d Leave’ and ‘Take Me Home’ are beautiful folk tinged moments that are as suited to James’ natural sound as anything he has done previously. And album closer ‘From Morning Sunshine’ is particularly gorgeous. This song sees Neon Neon collaborator and solo artist in her own right, Cate Le Bon, sharing the vocals to wonderful effect. It is a delicate, serene, tear soaked ballad of the highest pedigree and it is a stunning way to end this record. Richard James will doubtlessly receive kudos for his attempts to experiment on this album, but as clichés go, ‘if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it’ seems awfully well fitted when it comes to this hugely talented songwriter. Photobucket