Spencer Crandall may not be a name that’s well known to many UK country fans, but the independent country singer-songwriter has been quietly building attention – and a stream of loyal fans – since releasing his first student album back in 2016. Now, three records, three million fans and a quarter of a billion streams later, he’s about to break through with his fourth album, ‘Western’, out now.
The appropriately named record spans a whopping 20 tracks and is broken down into six parts: Scorpion, Mustang, Revolver, Pickaxe, Desert and Gold. It kicks off with ‘There Is A Fire’, a 53-second song with a shimmering intro and vocal effects that sets the tone for the next hour. I loved the slow burn feel of the song and how it builds into ‘K[no]w Better’, a twangy, punchy number with some very modern references to TED talks and tequila. I loved the clever wordplay on the chorus and thought Crandall’s vocals were very impressive, as well as his balance of the song’s dark themes with a funky melody.
One thing which stood out to me throughout the album was the range of styles Crandall employs. ‘Get Away From Me’ features a folk-influenced intro that reminded me of early Ben Howard (and a line about, um, certain ‘adult’ websites), whilst the hip-hop vibe of ‘What Do We Do Now?’ put me in mind of Sam Hunt’s ‘Break Up In A Small Town’ with its mentions of shopping at Target and dividing up concert tickets. Elsewhere, there’s classic rock touches on the likes of the deeply personal ‘Friends’ and ‘Red Flags’, a sharp, punchy kiss-off number about seeing an ex’s true colours.
What ties the whole thing together is Crandall’s excellent vocals. He has a really soulful edge and a great richness to his voice, which shines through on the likes of ‘The Ballad Of The Mustang’ – an early highlight with classic country influences that sees him opening up and looking forward in life – the anthemic ‘Didn’t Do’ and ‘Side Of The Stage’, an ode to having loved ones on your journey which sees his vocals soar as well as some impressive high notes! He also packs his songs with details that really bring them to life, whether that’s references to drinking Malibu in the pool on ‘No New Memories’ (which also features a dramatic guitar line and an horn-led intro that added a Spanish feel) or ‘To Be Continued…’ which nods to nostalgic Christmases with that person you can’t quite let go of and brings in some 80s synths to boot.
One of my personal highlights on the album is ‘7 And 70’, a subdued piano ballad that sees Crandall wanting to impress his younger self and his older self with the person he is now. I thought the twist in the chorus was really clever and found the whole thing surprisingly emotional. In a similar vein, ‘Enough’, which deals with the concept of male body image and self-confidence, provides a new take on a well-trodden lyrical path, whilst the bluesy guitar of ‘The Getting There’ marries with his high notes as he sings about doing things to enjoy the moment. Elsewhere, other standouts included the soulful, stomping ‘Girls Like You’, about regretting a breakup when your former partner moves on, the dreamy yet bittersweet ‘Future In The Past’ and ‘Made’, a soulful yet knowing number about growing together in a relationship and some fantastic vocal runs from Crandall.
After ‘Anyone’, which features a clipped guitar line and some great pop touches, Crandall closes the album with ‘Our Forever’, a story narrating his preparations for a proposal. It’s really nice to see that romantic side of him and feels like he’s come full circle from the intense back-and-forth relationship featured earlier in the record, as well as on his journey of personal growth. The storytelling and details that littered the album are there in full force (asking a friend for his partner’s ring size, leaving a trail of rose petals to the door as her favourite song plays) and it’s a great note to finish on.
Overall Spencer Crandall has delivered an expansive, wide-ranging album that spans a huge range of genres but is brought together by some outstanding vocals and a strong narrative thread that runs through the whole project. If I had any complaints, it would be that the record is perhaps a little long for my liking, but by the end of it you really feel like you’ve gone on a journey with him and have heard a rare talent. He’s definitely got potential to be huge and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
Track listing: 1. There Is A Fire 2. K[no]w Better 3. Get Away From Me 4. The Ballad Of The Mustang 5. Didn’t Do 6. 7 And 70 7. What Do We Do Now? 8. Friends 9. Girls Like You 10. No New Memories 11. Future In The Past 12. To Be Continued… 13. Red Flags 14. Made 15. You’re Still The One 16. Side Of The Stage 17. Enough 18. The Getting There 19. Anyone 20. Our Forever Record label: Spencer Crandall Release date: 21st October 2022