FACE TO FACE EP REVIEWS

Ben Hawling

" Using the word 'honest' in a discussion on the music and lyrics of a singer/songwriter can be risky.  I mean, it's easy to say a song is a masterpiece, just be applying the word 'honest' to an explanation of the theme of lyrics/tone etc.

 

But, the word tends to lose its meaning and value when overused.

 

When writing this review for Gloucestershire based songwriter Russ Poole's EP Face To Face, I tried my hardest not to surrender to the clutches of temptation, and tired my utmost to steer away from adding the word 'honest' onto the ends of my sentences.

 

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't.  In fact, I picked up the rawness and truthful quality of Russ' lyrics and thought-provoking themes, upon first listen.  The 'story' of the EP is of Russ' impending reunion with an old friend/lover, after a significant amount of time.  It also depicts the inner struggle one goes through, leading up to it.

 

For example, in the third track on the EP, 'Better', Russ describes how he sees himself, as well as how he appears to those around him.  This conflict seems to be built firmly on self deprecation and a jaded image of himself.  This is evident in the track's opening line, as Russ questions the song's subject on whether they believe he has changed, "Were you expecting to see a better version of me, or just more sober".

 

Later in the same song, Russ expresses that "I won't be the last to care, 'bout not getting anywhere. There's so much more I wanted to say, but it's too late". This is Russ at his most sincere, accepting the loss of something, or someone, great through idleness and self pity. Reflecting on the past allows him to uncover the truth and is able to see what he truly is, and what he could be.

 

Russ's use of gentle guitar work, supported by soft piano and drums throughout, really enforces this idea and sets the intense tone of the EP wonderfully.

 

The second track 'Seven Bottles', acts as the 'picking-yourself-up' part of Russ' journey through self pity. The song illustrates the twisted logic of having lost, and turning to drink for solace. "I know I'll be ok, seven bottles all empty....I say that now, and I think I mean it".  This more up tempo track is an oddly comfortable presence on the EP, but successfully sums up the faux hope, after being left behind.  This I'm sure we can all admit to having experienced.

 

Russ also seems to imply that being honest to yourself isn't always enough.  In the opening lyrics to the EP's title track, Russ confirms "All I have is everything to me. All I want is everything she is". This suggests a confidence in one's self, but also an awareness that the song's subject sees this as a limitation.

 

Built on Russ' deep vocals and a rolling  guitar melody, the song acts a step by step account of one's thoughts leading up to the important reunion and a sincere prediction on how he will act upon finally seeing the object

of his affection again.  This works well with 'Better' before it,  and continues the theme of deep self analysis, "She stays the same, and I'm bound to change. I'll lose control,  when I meet you face to face".

 

In the EP Face To Face, Russ Poole has managed to construct 4 intense, yet gentle songs, which act as a meditation on the pure components of his very being.  Russ remains persistent in letting the listener hear the truth about him throughout. "Look a little closer, and you might see, not everything is perfect and this wasn't meant to be", as he claims in opening track 'Take Your Time'.

 

And that, I would say, is pretty damn honest! "

Ronan Glennon - Pure M Magazine

"  There’s just not one shred of doubt when I begin to declare that there are some of us who just cannot express their set of emotions easily to other sentient beings. You’ve met these creatures before, I’m sure. Perhaps it’s a difficult task for most of us, but not for Mr. Russ Poole.

This singer/songwriter from Gloucester, has undergone this feat in his third EP entitled ‘Face To Face’. A fitting title for such an honestly portrayed record. By blending a sort of baroque-pop sound with some strong indie-folk guitar rhythms, Russ has created a sonic-atmosphere that gives the listener the impression of an artist in a truly self-reflective state. As a listener I can appreciate music that comes straight from the core.

In this neatly packed collection of some intelligently-structured songs, you’ll hear melodic electric guitars overlapping delicately plucked strings of a warm sounding acoustic guitar.

The first track ‘Take your time’ ascends slowly with this effect that follows the artist’s low registered-baritone voice. Throughout the EP, Pianos and backing vocals are cleverly used for ranging dynamics for some pretty hard-hitting chorus’s.

‘Better’ standing at track no. 3 demonstrates this factor perfectly along with another element that seemed to impress me. The use of falsetto vocals for the chorus. Sang with a precise emphasis on each note that lacerated out a sound that lightly touched on what Bon Iver has experimented with, which is by no means an easy way to sing.

‘Face To Face’ appropriately represents this musical venture in a number of ways. Musically and lyrically it sets the bar in relation to the rest of the songs. Words written so bluntly and delivered from the edge of the throat sends a few questions into the midst. Is this written for someone significant? Is this a message? These are the little mystery’s left for us to unravel. 

Given you’re in the right mood and your eyes are sealed shut, the startling impact of the electric guitars soloing in a glossy symmetry, wrapping around each other with some interesting overdubbed effects, will surely send some squirming vibrations throughout your waking body.

At first, it was hard for me to swallow some of my inhibitions on first-glance at this record. Inhibitions simply stemming from not listening to this in the right atmospheric setting or even the right mood. So go find your turtle-shell domain and listen with a clear, childlike mindset and you’ll certainly find yourself liking what you hear.

I can conclude that these sounds are not for those of whom that are de-void of all feeling in the pits of their soul’s, but if you’re one of those ‘deep’ individuals who likes to hear a haunting, striking voice discharging its emotional content for four minutes, then you should start following this guy around.

Russ Poole’s ‘Face To Face’ hits us online 1st February 2015.

You can find all his music on iTunes, AmazonMP3, Bandcamp and Spotify.  "

ONE MORE EP REVIEWS

Dan Base - Cheltenham Underground

" Any musician wielding an acoustic guitar these days is likely to be automatically labelled as ‘folk’: a term that has become so broad that it’s borderline meaningless in the mouths of most. Russ Poole is a songwriter from Gloucester who recorded, produced and released his second EP One More himself. Poole’s accomplished production is crisp and precise; very much at the opposite end of the spectrum to the raw and rustic feel of the best folk music. Besides, the urban ennui that permeates his personal and self-reflective lyrics gives the record a contemporary feel that matches its production. The songs on One More are more like the mixture of soft rock, pop and indie that used to be categorised under the ‘singer-songwriter’ genre, alongside the likes of David Gray, Badly Drawn Boy and Damien Rice. The EP certainly sounds like Rice might be an influence on Poole’s earnest, intense vocal style.

Many similar singer-songwriters’ lyrics are too mawkish to be taken seriously by anyone more cynical than a Disney princess. Poole, however, avoids clichés and cheap sentimentalism with honest, personal lyrics that draw on some occasionally bleak subject matter. Opener Scream starts sparsely with just an acoustic guitar and vocals, but soon adds bass, drums, piano and another guitar part to give the feel of a full band (even if Poole is playing every part himself). Written in the second-person, the protagonist seems to be stuck in the purgatory of the last days of a dying relationship, directly addressing the partner from whom he wants to escape: “I’m pretty god-damn sick of seeing you always around here.” Scream also explores trying to find the time and space for the narrator to be himself, pleading, “Let me be who I want to be” and “give me a minute to be me.”

Just One More is a more plaintive song, comprising of just voice and guitar, but it has a similarly heavy lyrical theme, dealing with alcohol addiction, begging “just one more then I’ll go”. Unlike Scream, however, the narrator asks to relinquish control of his life, rather than trying to win back some power: “please tell me how to run my life… tell me if I should just go”.

Stop This Now is One More’s most instrumentally complete song, with a similar full band sound to Scream. Poole’s songs work best when they use a full band, and he uses the dynamic between those parts and the sparser moments really effectively. Once again, it is written in the second-person, asking its subject to “take me back somehow to that place I can’t forget.” Unlike the rest of the EP, Stop This Now is led by its piano rather than the guitar, which widens the record’s sonic variety.

The EP’s closer, I Believe In You is the closest thing on the record to a straightforward love song, expressing faith and trust in its subject and asking “will you be a part of me forever?” Although it’s well produced and builds to a multi-layered, string-enhanced climax, the song is underpinned by a yearning vocal part and a straightforward, honest busker strum that in the wrong hands might have ended up sounding a little bit, you know, James Bluntish. Luckily, Poole’s voice isn’t at all whiny, so the song avoids cheesy pop territory has a touching, muted feel to it.

Despite the often dark themes elsewhere, the EP’s undoubted high point is the utterly fantastic Alive, which features understated, un-melodramatic lyrics about doing your best in life. It’s an optimistic song about what we can achieve, proclaiming “nothing’s gonna stop us now.” However, it also has a maturity to it, its lyrics seeming to speak out against instant gratification, claiming, “the best things come to those who wait.” It’s appropriate, then, that it’s a song that gets better with each try; the synthy strings that punctuate it might grab your attention most on the first listen, but the sheer warmth of the song is what leaves a lasting impression. “Do you feel alive?” asks the song’s refrain, concluding, “just sit back and enjoy this beautiful day.” Aptly, it’s a song that sounds exactly how a red letter day feels: glorious.

EPs are a great way for an artist to release early material without having to wait until they have enough songs for something longer. However, the question I always find myself asking after a couple of shorter releases is: are they ready for an album yet? Although One More doesn’t suffer from repetitiveness over its five tracks, a varied sound is a massively important way to keep a full album interesting and to help it avoid the comfort of the middle of the road.

Making this excellent record by himself was a mightily impressive feat, but the best way to push his songs in new directions could be through collaborations with other musicians, which might inject something fresh. Poole names Ryan Adams as an influence, and perhaps trying a more organic alt-country approach to the production on a couple of future songs could add a different edge to an LP.

So, is he ready for a full album? I would say yes: Russ Poole is clearly a very talented musician and songwriter, and One More is an accomplished EP with a genuinely radio-friendly sound. Although unlikely to convert anyone who isn’t already keen on this style of music, it’s a record that deserves to find broad appeal; aye, your mum might like it – but so might you. And that’s a good thing. Give it a try.  "

Music Review Unsigned

"  This relaxing and unwinding EP is spilling with talent. With nothing but an acoustic guitar and expressive lyrics this 5 track EP is nothing but soothing to the ear. Each track carries its own almost narrating Russ’ love life, making this EP more personal and meaningful. There is at least one track that every person will be able to relate too if they listen carefully. Each lyric has a touching and moving atmosphere about it which makes this EP extremely unique. You can hear Russ’ influences such as Damien Rice and Joshua Radin leak from his expressive lyrics and constant mellow guitar. Russ’ music can be heard on the following website, music.russpoole.co.uk, and can be downloaded on iTunes.  "