Founder member and songwriter of psyche-garage quartet Guile, Neal Sawyer had previously gigged intensely throughout the United Kingdom and Europe alike, embarking on headline tours and supporting some of his heroes on the way. This accumulated in the release of Guile's debut and only album 'Alone on the West', which received critical acclaim. On November 24th 2012 Neal Sawyer played his last live show. His final show saw a withdrawal from the loud electric scene to a stripped back acoustic show with fellow band member and brother.
"It can be organic and subtle, or heartbreaking and sudden. But closing a chapter doesn't have to feel just sad - it can also be celebrated."
Neal was left in solitude without his lifeblood...... music. Equipped with his habitual pen and notepad he packed his bag and hit the roads of the United States of America.
It is hard to pinpoint the moment of renaissance. Was it a visit from a spirit at the famed Robert Johnson crossroads of Clarksdale, Mississippi? Was it his acquisition of an acoustic guitar from Jerry Lee Lewis's guitarist in Memphis, Tennessee? Or was it driven by a cathartic personal journey? Neal Sawyer reached his own personal crossroads. Steeped in the musical traditions of the South he returned to his spiritual home, his lock up, situated on a disused mining complex in Staffordshire, England. Armed with his beloved acoustic guitar and a steely determination the recording of his debut solo album commenced.
"Experiment then regress until you reach an irrefutable truth."
Neal Sawyer and his 'Ballads of the Mortal' demonstrates an evolution and a maturity in his song writing. Always the prolific writer, themes of love both present and lost, faith, hope, despair and mortality expose him as a writer of compulsion and necessity. Organically folk, reminiscent of the blues, rooted in country, with flashes of psychedelia this is a firmly alternative work. A transition from his electric guitar driven past, the album's backbone is in the country tinged acoustic guitar.
"I manufactured a scenario in my head, my manifesto. What if Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, The Doors and Spacemen 3 were locked in a room set with the task of recording a Quentin Tarrantino score? This served as a great starting point for the album. Out of pure requirement the use of modern technology was fundamental to the album. I found myself embracing some production methods I had heard on recent pop records. It became a juxtaposition of light and dark, past and present."
Neal Sawyer, 2018
A perfectionist sometimes to a fault all avenues had to be explored. Neal Sawyer is a self cultivated multi instrumentalist, from banjo to lap steel, organs to piano, strings to synths and possibly many more less audible are in place to serve and embellish the songs. Self produced, these recordings are an extraordinary achievement yet one that was always going to reach its conclusion due to sheer resolve - despite the flooding of his recording space and the late night burglars who disrupted a recording session. Having worked in isolation, the album was finally presented to record producer and engineer Gareth Rogers (Robert Plant, Scott Matthews, Editors). A shared vision, passion and belief in the songs was vindication enough to suppress all anxieties and the final mixes were completed. This album represents Neal Sawyer facing his vulnerability head on. It's a forlorn yet enthusiastic, insecure yet mature record, pleading for understanding.
The time is now for 'Ballads of the Mortal.'
Chris Stapleton, Ennio Morricone, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Quentin Tarantino, Spacemen 3, T Bone Burnett, The Doors, Tom Waits