The opening line on his new, independently recorded album is “Not that I have that much dignity left anyway” and a repeated line in the title track is “starting to sound like a broken record”.

It almost invites the suggestion that Cole has devolved from a cutting edge, highly lauded, mainstream, popular artist to a fringe player surviving on the goodwill of a few loyal fans and slipping from relevance as he painfully extends a career by tediously repeating himself.

Of course if that’s actually where Cole found himself he wouldn’t be likely to admit that by making such a prominent self reference in the opening song, now would he?

No, the fact is that Cole’s relevance continues to be enhanced by this charming, small scale album and in fact his legacy is enhanced by this excellent collection of new material.

On a superficial level some will suggest that he’s gone a little bit country on this record but to me that’s a lazy response based on the frequent (and very tasteful) use of the pedal steel on a number of tracks along with occasional appearances from a banjo and mandolin. To me these are not genre defining contributions but rather a response to songs that called for the melancholy tones that these instruments provide.

The way I look at it there’s probably half a dozen tracks that could make it onto a (reasonably generous) “best of” album and that’s an impressive strike rate.

There are no songs here that don’t earn their stripes the album starts wistfully with the title track, Like A Broken Record. There’s probably few writers who would contemplate their lovers return from “a writers retreat” with only a hint of a smirk, but Cole does that on Writers Retreat and emerges unscathed. It’s a rollicking up-tempo song that mines the collection of irresistible melodies that Cole has aplenty.

Later on Side One (yes it’s actually called that) two songs with almost lullaby qualities are the highlights. The Flipside is the first of these which benefits from a salubrious vocal while If I Were A Song takes a lyric that could have been problematically coy and provides it with a sincerity that allows it maintain its grace.

Side Two is almost flawless. That’s Alright is a deeply grooved pop-rock song that oozes casual cool – it is followed by the completely contrasting Oh Genevieve which is impossibly perky almost to the point of being a little too cheesy.

Man Overboard is a beautiful song that takes the form of a gentle sea shanty and blends writing styles that seem to merge Luka Bloom with early Springsteen. It’s a little gem of a song. Rhinestones is a wordy self-deprecating, folk song with a sting in its tail and humour on its side.

The album closes with perhaps my personal favorite song on the album Double Happiness. It’s a strange little song – on one hand it’s flirtatious and immediate and on the other it concludes with an unorthodox instrumental outro that emphasises that this is a band album, not a solo folk collection. It’s a creeper of a song that rounds the album out well.

Link to original article online

Publication: Hey Hey My My Music for Adults

Publication date: 22/08/10