Sunday, 11 May 2014

CD Review: Scott Alan – Anything Worth Holding On To

“When you feel like you just slept through all the best years of your life”



This 8 track EP may seem like slim pickings at first glance – a handful of these songs appeared on Scott Alan’s last album What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up and one is an instrumental of a song already on there. But further examination shows us what is actually happening here, this is the first time that Alan has released a collection that features only himself, rather than the multi-talented cast that he is able to call on to sing his ever-growing songbook. And for that instrumental, the aching tunefulness of the title track of Anything Worth Holding On To makes it more than worthy of the focus.


The focus here is intimately personal. The collection of songs traces the writer’s struggles with depression and faces up honestly to the difficulties of being a composer of new musical theatre in a world that too easily defers to the familiar. The solo voice of Alan thus serves a dual purpose – it simplifies matters, and costs, for a new record, but it also provides a stunning connection with the material that hasn’t always been present before, a real sense that these are genuine emotions lying behind the work, lived in in the most intimate of ways. 



So the aching beauty of Anything Worth Holding On To resonates more than it ever could, even with sterling performances by Crystal Monee Hall (on his last album) or Cynthia Erivo (at a recent London gig), the gorgeous piano melody benefitting from the slight frailty of Alan’s interpretation. Likewise, the live recording of Nothing More captures something special in its desperate pleas for help, the need for family to pull people through their darkest moments, the supporting hand that Shoshana Bean provides on I’m In Pain indicating the importance of friends. 


The mood never really brightens across the record and crucially, that’s the point. Depression is hard to acknowledge but vital to recognise, and there is no easy solution. Just the realisation that it is a condition that can be controlled and that the power to control ultimately lies in your own hands. Anything Worth Holding On To is an exceptionally brave piece of work, laying bare the demons of someone suffering their darkest moments yet its very existence is inspirational, it is the light at the end of the tunnel, it is the help that you may not realise you need.

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