The Curious Case Of Gerry Cinnamon.
Jake Bugg must be fuming – eight years ago the Nottingham starlet was carving out a niche for himself in British guitar music with tales of love and life, of getting into scrapes and managing the boredom of working class existence. And while the subject matter wasn’t new (The Streets kicked it off, then Arctic Monkeys brought into the indie realm), there was a rawness to it, backed nominally with acoustic guitar. Where the Monkeys were wry, Bugg allowed his heart to show.
Subsequent circumstances have meant that Bugg has lost all momentum, and the vacuum has been ably and promptly filled by Gerry Cinnamon. The Glaswegian managed to capture the mood of those that wanted independence during the Scottish referendum of 2014 with Hope Over Fear. Since then, he’s become a true grassroots phenomenon of a kind that is rare in this age of manufacture. His debut album Erratic Cinematic, released in 2017, evolved naturally via word-of-mouth to the extent that he had prestige shows lined up for the summer – a homecoming gig at Glasgow’s Hampden Park and a sub-headlining slot at the Reading/Leeds festival – before you know what.
It’s undoubtedly an impressive achievement; with no recognition or critical acclaim he’s managed to permeate the mainstream on his own terms, and deserves plaudits for that alone. Cinnamon consciously exists in his own world, and indeed here recognises as much on Outsiders, a self-referencing call-to-arms akin to Pulp’s Mis-Shapes. Elsewhere, on Six String Gun he acknowledges his weapon of choice and laughs in the face of the derision he gets for any over-use of it. Which is just as well, because if you don’t like acoustic guitars, kick drums and harmonicas, then there’s very little else for you.
Bob Dylan is probably his closest reference point, but while there’s little poetic insight in the vein of the great man, Cinnamon does cover varied subjects. Roll The Credits observes the break-up of a relationship from afar, while Everyman’s Truth is about the age of disinformation we live in. The Bonny is the third part of a character study (started with What Have You Done from the first album and the opening track on this, Canter), the track itself the resolution to build something better. Similarly, the now eerily prescient Dark Days is a lesson in looking at the simple pleasures in life.
Hope is the main theme: the opening line (again from Canter), ‘This is the beginning of the rest of your life’, is aspirational, and the drivetime, Don Henley-esque Where We’re Going (the most developed track here) is a song of regret but also a timeless theme of escaping your circumstances. On the other end of the scale, War Song Solider is more personal and lyrically bare, Cinnamon instead opting to sing wordlessly whilst the mournful harmonica and overall starkness of the song reflects better the mood.
He harnesses the old Celtic impulse to sing songs of love and life at the top of your lungs, which therefore makes reviews such as this pointless; like Stereophonics and The Courteeners, Gerry Cinnamon is now critic-proof. The songs come from a place of universal truth and are folkies the likes of which have been sung since man invented the guitar. Written about the people, by the people, for the people.
There’s a lot to be said for both the refusal to concede and the ability to tap into something primal, but ultimately it comes down to whether you dig it or you don’t.