Hey! Manchester presents Cherry Ghost for a festive special.
For the last couple of years, Simon Aldred has been in a state of wilful musical schizophrenia. Since 2007, Bolton-born Aldred has – to all intents – been Cherry Ghost, a band known for perfecting a kind of widescreen North Western country soul. Yet the third Cherry Ghost album arrives after an extensive period in which Aldred’s own music been pulled in multiple different directions.
Firstly – as a songwriter-for-hire – Aldred has helped to nurture the best of nascent British talent (including hugely tipped artists like Sam Smith and Rae Morris). Latterly – as singer and solo artist – he produced a set of critically lauded post-midnight electronic love songs under the Out Cold guise. Somewhere in the middle, there’s the small matter of the phoenix-like rebirth of Aldred’s Ivor Novello-winning 2007 single People Help The People as it went on to chart highly in 14 different countries in 2010 when it was covered by the teenage singer Birdy.
Far from muddying the musical waters, each of these diversions has only helped sharpen Aldred’s songwriting, providing a major spur for the finest Cherry Ghost album to date, Herd Runners.
Shifting from soaring, symphonic pop (Clear Skies Ever Closer) to melancholic lock-in blues (Drinking for Two) via an almost uncompromisingly hopeful rhythmic shuffle (The World Could Turn [In A Heartbeat]), Herd Runners is a sublime collection, a reminder of Aldred’s singular skill as a composer; a skill that can twist bitter loss into teary optimism (and back) in less time than it takes to toss a coin. Lyrically, the album paints Edward Hopper-esque observations of the lives of others. Where previous records would have focused on the gloomy edges of the picture, Herd Runners takes something of a longer view.
Unlike the last Cherry Ghost album (Beneath This Burning Shoreline, featured music co-written with his then-touring band), Herd Runners was written and readied for recording by Aldred alone. Much like Cherry Ghost’s debut Thirst For Romance, the record is ostensibly a solo endeavour demoed at home before being finally pieced together in the studio with the help of a few handpicked musicians. Rather than wait until the songs were completely watertight, Aldred booked the studio and engineer (Yellow Arch in Sheffield with long-term Richard Hawley collaborator Colin Elliot) for three months hence then set about fiercely working against the ticking clock he’d set for himself.
Herd Runners is Cherry Ghost’s finest record yet; ten perfectly crafted tales of heartbreak and hope. That musical schizophrenia is clearly working wonders for Simon Aldred. Expect more treats from Cherry Ghost’s back catalogue, plus one or two festive musical treats.
The Picturehouse Cafe Bar is open beforehand for delicious food and drinks.