Presenting your music as a singer-songwriter has its advantages, but it certainly has its drawbacks. On one hand, you tend to be in control. It is all your music and you present it in a way you want and think it should be done. Of course, you should have something substantial to say, at least musically. On the other hand, though, singer-songwriter music very often tends to be very personal and you are practically, as the too often used phrase says, baring your soul to anybody who takes a listen. So, although it seems quite an easy thing to do, singer-songwriter music when quite personal requires not only musical and lyrical sense and knowledge with a lot of courage to present.
Listening to BlackSheepLad’s EP, Badly Made, you get all the best characteristics of a good singer-songwriter. Phil Mellen (also known as BlackSheepLad) not only has the musical sense of what constitutes a good song but also how to make the right balance between keeping the music spares and at the same time interesting to the listener. Still, his true strength lies in his lyrics, which are at the forefront here. It is all quite personal and it is obvious that he has the essential courage but also the ability to present his visions both through music and words.
All is clear with the opener ‘Livedo’ which seems to be the artist’s live staple at the moment. The song is inspired by a side effect of the long Covid-19 lockdowns, but at the same time is a wry take on attractiveness and desire. Certainly not an easy thing to do both musically and lyrically, but BlackSheepLad comes through the experience with flying colours.
Usually, the problem for singer-songwriters can be the most gentle tracks, the ones where there is only their voice and a single instrument – in this case, an acoustic guitar. It leaves them completely bare and they can only rely on their smarts, voice and instrument. On Badly Made the UK musician goes that route openly twice, on ‘Genealogy’ and the closing ’From The Hedgerow’. Again, he tackles the task with admirable ease with his very good lyrics shining through.
Not so badly made, after all.