John Forrester – ‘Restless’
Release date: 23rd February 2018
As the title suggests, Restless – the new studio album from songwriter John Forrester – explores the transient underpinning of the lone musician and the tension that arises when they become tethered to a place not of their choosing. Songs of travel, displacement, creativity and disappointment sit alongside those that explore the journey we all make through life. For Restless Forrester employed a more structured approach to recording and, for the first time, a producer, in the shape of Fairground Attraction’s Roy Dodds.
However, a close family member’s terminal illness forced Forrester to pause recording mid-album and spend time back in his home town to care for his loved one. “You make a life for yourself,” reflects Forrester, “but then you’re pulled back to something in the past. Back in the town you grew up in. There’s definitely a comfort in familiarity but also a disconnect, as you’re now effectively just a visitor.”
These events soon seeped into Forrester’s writing. “It certainly coloured the album. There are songs that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. The album changed shape.” Previously recorded songs no longer seemed right and new work emerged as Forrester’s world changed irrevocably – and when recording resumed, a broader canvas was laid out upon which the new songs were afforded more room to breathe and be heard.
With another pair of ears on board, the multi-instrumentalist was encouraged to play less and not fill every pocket of the aural spectrum. The result of which is a cohesive yet adventurous album that, although reminiscent of Forrester’s earlier work, explores new ground both musically and lyrically. Though Forrester took care of acoustic guitar and double bass himself, additional musicians were brought in to augment the new sound – singer and cellist Kath Williams, pianist Jenny Carr, flautist Linze Maesterosa, accordionist George Whitfield and violinists Paul Godfrey and Saskia Tomkins – while Dodds doubled up on percussive duties.
From the a-cappella album opener ‘Richmond Hill’, where the singer earmarks a place of personal pilgrimage for future reflection, to ‘Somewhere I Can Be’, a song for “all the bits of us that we leave behind”, the general mood of the LP captures the essence, drive and complexities of the restless soul; both joyous and melancholic, with all the manifold touchpoints in between.
‘Dream of Home’ muses on the Goethe quote concerning commitment, and is a testament to doubling-down and following one’s path. While ‘Trouble’ is a gypsy Euro-waltz that conjures up Kurt Weill and Jaques Brel with accordions and saucy tales of abandonment to lust. “I filed this song away for ages, as I didn’t think it was my style, and still don’t” remembers Forrester. Soon to be single ‘Butterfly Catcher’ “was inspired by people that seek to take your time and energy when you don’t want to give it. It’s about boundaries and not giving too much of yourself away” while ‘Restless Bones’ is an autobiographical look at the passing of time and friendships.
Restless, in summary, is an album borne of change – with two very different sides owing to its divided recording process. It’s also a record that relishes in a newfound sense of experimentation and collaboration, while staying true to its creator’s restless soul.