CD Review: Rychard Carrington reviews Scars - Paul Goodwin

Scars cover
Local Cambridgeshire Artist


Cambridge singer-songwriter Paul Goodwin's first album, recorded between 1998 and 2007 and now released on BFF Records, is a subtly compelling work, a tour de force of gloomy introspection. Goodwin's songs inhabit a quiet, still, reflective space, in which sensitivities are given a chance to breathe. A man alone with his feelings; the uncluttered, gentle, almost solipsistic region, exemplified by Nick Drake's Pink Moon.


The strength the album builds around resides in the arrangements. Paul's delicate acoustic guitar sets the tone very nicely. The selection of embellishments is very judicious: if there were bass and drums on every track it would be awful; but no, it's a different combination on each: violin, cello, harmonium, accompanying female vocals and even thrashing grunge rock all come in at just the right moment.


On top of this stark beauty are Paul's rough Essex vocals. One might wish for a prettier voice, but give it a chance and you might find that in fact the gruffness adds a realism, avoids preciosity. Here I think having seen Paul live does help. When you have gained more of an impression of the man, you can place the tales of aching sensitivity alongside a more down-to-earth gloomy manner (in the latest post on his blog, he moans about his television repair service). In fact the stories his songs tells are not so remote from ordinary experience, they just go straight to the tenderest hurts of failed romance that most of us know.


Ultimately it's the unabashed concentration on serious heartache that renders Scars special. Even the affirmative So Finally A Love Song doesn't sound at all buoyant or joyful. Here Paul can't help falling in love again, but he's hardly skipping about gleefully. Goodwin (a somewhat inappropriate surname) would sooner embrace satirical lampooning - he's been billed at gigs as an ‘alpha miserablist', and he sells t-shirts emblazoned ‘at least I'm not Paul Goodwin' - than lighten up for a number. The direction seems to be ‘if we're wallowing in tender anguish, we're not going to do it by halves'. So there you are, if that's what you like, you've got your album.


Paul Goodwin's website 


Writer: Rychard Carrington