Shrouded in the sounds of America J R Harbidge takes on the personal and political in debut album First Ray Of Light.

Throw in a dash of rock, a tinge of country, and a slice of the blues and you get J R Harbidge’s debut.
The album's promotional material would like you to link this solo debut with names like Bob Dylan and Crosby Stills & Nash,and to be fair to the artist he can do a pretty good impression.

The album shoots for the Dylan vibes from the off with the opener ‘Turn The Screw ’. Our protagonist is clearly disgruntled about the world he lives in, but powerless to do anything he plugs away, safe in the knowledge that things will change. The Englishman sings:

“one day there’ll come a choice a turning of the tide, will I hide, or will I rise and see it through.”.

The track is a decent start, which vocally and thematically walks a similar path to Dylan, just don’t expect the poetry of The Times They Are a-Changin'.

As well as venting at the state of the world, the LP makes welcome attempts to connect on a more personal level. ‘First Ray Of Light’ Tells of a person appearing to, slowly but surely worked their way out of depression. Lyrics feel real and true to life. The storyteller doesn’t know when they’ll be back on emotional solid ground, but with a tiny array of metaphorical light hope remains.

This level of lyrical due care and attention is also shown in the grief stricken ‘Learn To Love The Rain’. In the slow tempo track, the words managed to pull off a nice balance of, understanding, warmth, and hope through the hard times. Though the song hits the right notes overall, the chorus takes the listener out of the moment. As Harbidge sings” you got to learn to love the rain”, it’s not clear what he’s getting at.

Other highlights include, the secretive blues number ‘I Know You Know I Know’ and the vehemently anti-war ‘I Wont Support Your Wars’.

Although compositions proved to be a worthwhile listen, demonstrating some nice blues and rock flourishes, across the 10 tracks it rarely feels like the album’s pushing out of second gear. There’s plenty of gentle guitar and organ work, but not too much to quicken the pulse. There are exceptions to this rule, but a little more variety would’ve been a good move.