Sunday, July 21, 2024

John Sloman – Two Rivers

For rock fans of a certain vintage, the name John Sloman will certainly reawaken a few memory cells because, at one time, he was considered to be a genuine contender after fronting Lone Star in the late 70’s and, upon their demise, singing with Uriah Heep, UFO and the Gary Moore Band, plus also recording a number of solo works. He was a mercurial talent, occasionally compared to Plant and Coverdale, always in or around but never quite making the breakthrough it was assumed was his for the taking.

But it didn’t happen. His career down the years has involved a considerable number of twists and turns and more ups and downs than he’d probably care to remember, and he’s divided his life into two sections. The Old Testament was the late 1970s and the 1980s, moving to London to pursue his dreams of singing, eventually bestriding the world as a major player, fronting ‘name’ rock bands, while the later part of his life. The New Testament, is his time turning himself into a cottage industry and recording solo albums, of which Two Rivers is the ninth.

Given his pedigree, if you’re thinking this will be some kind of conventional rock album, you’ll need to look elsewhere. No wailing guitars or swirling keys here, just mainly acoustic guitars, a few other instruments and an occasional small choir.. all done by Sloman. The album title derives from Sloman looking back on his life when he left Wales, leaving Cardiff’s River Taff and moving to London to be beside the Thames. The two rivers are a metaphor for the times, and the whole album is Sloman reflecting on things past. The opening line of the title track says it all .. “Two rivers flow through my mind – the one I see before me and the one I left behind” and he looks back with a tinge of sardonic humour and mild regret his life didn’t quite pan out as he’d hoped upon leaving Wales, as he mourns the loss of many who once walked beside him, including his girlfriend’s mother on the poignant ‘Rest In Peace’.

But he’s come up with some quite delightful tunes to put alongside his very sharply personal observations on his Old Testament life, with some painful memories being put to song. The acoustic ‘Charing Cross Moon’ tells of someone very down on their luck and busking but making nothing while doing so .. “London’s a lonely place to be, when you’ve paid your dues and going hungry”. On the Jethro Tull influenced Blackweir he sings “it’s been twenty years since I was here, but time and tide have brought me home again“.  There’s heartfelt nostalgia evoked as well. From ‘The Taff To The Thames’, which could have been a Scott Walker track, tells of a time when things seemed to be going right, but didn’t last. ‘When I Go Home’ and ‘Walking along The Taff’ (singing “by the time we learn the song of our life, we realise it’s already been sung“) evoke bittersweet memories of youth. While ‘The Last Coalminer’ is a lament for a lost way of life (singing “black was my gold”) and the identity which went with it. When he concludes the album with ‘Farewell To London Town’ he realises, spiritually, he’d already left the big city long before he actually did. As he says on ‘Two Rivers’ “..one river I feel so alone, one river is calling me home”.

There may well be a sense of someone embracing their mortality here, but not too many vocalists could be as open as Sloman’s been about how their life hasn’t panned out and employing metaphor as effectively as he’s done here, and despite the subject matter, Two Rivers isn’t an album wallowing in maudlin melancholy. But he’s put his feelings across in an achingly honest way, and for this, and for the overall quality of the songs on the album, he deserves real credit.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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For rock fans of a certain vintage, the name John Sloman will certainly reawaken a few memory cells because, at one time, he was considered to be a genuine contender after fronting Lone Star in the late 70’s and, upon their demise, singing with...John Sloman - Two Rivers