Civil Dusk feels like hanging out with an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while and working out just how much you’ve missed them. There’s plenty that’s familiar in Bernard Fanning’s third solo effort, but that’s the real the appeal. There’s a palpable warmth here and the knowledge that you’re in the hands of one our best songwriters. And just because there’s a familiarity doesn’t mean that Fanning is writing to a template: his knack of taking a stretch of melody or a song structure in a direction that you weren’t quite expecting is part of what makes him such a great songsmith.
The other thing that stands out here is the clarity of production. While many Australian artists head overseas to record, Fanning shows that you don’t have to go to Nashville or LA for a great mix, Byron Bay can deliver the goods just as well. Ironically Civil Dusk is characterised by the sound of California of the mid to late seventies, with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars and interplay of piano and organ over some gorgeous melodies. There are definite shades of Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Steely Dan.
His post-Powderfinger record, Departures was a solid and aurally pleasing effort, but didn’t quite prove to be as memorable as the bulk of Fanning’s previous work. This latest album, however, seems to fare better on this count and, on first listen, appears at least the equal of his first solo outing, Tea and Sympathy.
Civil Dusk is a remarkably consistent outing awash with highlights: the soft, soulful opener ‘Emerald Flame’, the catchy acoustic guitar and melodic hooks of lead single ‘Wasting Time’ and the gentle melancholia of ‘Unpicking a Puzzle’ are just a few.
Bernard is clearly in prolific frame of mind with a follow up, Brutal Dawn, early next year. If the material here is anything to go by, we should be in for another treat.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor