Album Review: Phil Odgers – Roll To The Left

A quick blues lick signals a guitar man’s record. They lyric “take it easy now/we’re getting there by rail” signals how the record will unfold. The chugging instrumentation and deep vocals of The Train echoes Folsom Prison Blues but the lyrics and tone are altogether sunnier. Plus I’m pretty sure Johnny Cash never wrote a song about the train line that runs by *my* hometown!

Blue Skies and a Saturday Job sounds completely different in a refreshing way. It’s much more vocally driven, anchored by a simple guitar line. It’s part wishful thinking and part wish fulfillment until it takes a sharp Baby Driver turn at the end.

No Getting Over You is a winsome ditty, a little love song with a retro feel, encompassing barbershop harmonies and a strong bass line.

The strings of Mist On The Water build with an ominous tinge. The song has a 70s feel with tender vocals and a tone that’s part whimsical, part regretful. Next up, Moving On Again has a gentle pedal steel backing and sweet vocals about an itinerant life.

Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down is a deceptive toe-tapper, for the eponymous refrain turns it into a raucous singalong when played live. Too Cold For Me is another foot stomper. This country tinged track is about growing old disgracefully and accepting who you are: “the cool, cool crowd are just too cold for me.”

Long Stem Rose is lovely but bittersweet with a rising brass section and reflective lyrics: “are you due to die after the springtime?” Description becomes simile about ultimately accepting the loss of love that could never survive.

The vocal in Tomorrow Will Be Fine starts close to a yodel before settling down to a gentle ballad. Conversely, Eddie Was is a tribute song,, played out in the past tense right from the start, about a young punk who escaped violence in the city, found love and died too soon: “he went to his cremation with music.”

Like the opening track, Half Past Three has a Cash-like beat, bluesy repetition and a country fiddle line. Fighting insomnia with a drink and a smoke takes more of an ominous turn with an undertone of bar room noise and the lyric “I should be dreaming but I can’t fight off the night.”

The album is only 36 minutes and 11 songs long but it seems so much more than that because the songs are so varied. Rock, punk, blues and country play together. The thread that connects them is the importance of remembering without dwelling or standing still. It’s about hard graft and adjusted expectation to get past dead ends. Roll To The Left is dynamic with constant movement. It’s a journey acknowledging the past, accepting the present and not giving up on the future.

You can buy this album, as well as the rest of Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers’ solo back catalogue, on Bandcamp. Also look out for 35th anniversary activity from his band, The Men They Couldn’t Hang. 

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