With the country currently basking in some long-overdue sunny weather, there’s little better to soundtrack the beers and bonhomie than a batch of laid-back tunes.
And Picnic Area, Manchester’s own Americana maestros, have knocked up an album just for the job.
You Know You Want It! is their first studio-produced album, and the magic touches of legendary producer Bill Leader certainly capture the warmth of their live performances. The dry humour of Wayne McDonald’s lyrics, combined with the polished playing of Andy Callen (guitars), Matt Crawford (bass) and Simon Parkin (drums), are faithfully transported from stage to studio.
‘Silver Train’, the album opener, sets the tone nicely – featuring jangly guitars with lush production, the lyrics about a late train, that most unromantic of topics, establish a quintessentially British voice to this slice of Americana.
This Mancunian country and (north) western vibe follows on ‘Gold Chain’, with top-notch instrumentation shot through with a subversive lyrical wit. The theme carries on through ‘Kids in the Hall’, a more melancholic number with a layered, atmospheric sound, and the bouncy and beguiling ‘Chain Gang’.
The band clearly know each other inside out, with flashes of rock soloing on ‘How Much Does it Cost if it’s Free’ and ‘Deep Throat’ adding to the free-wheeling feel of a really good jam session. Ending on the superbly-titled ‘I’m Not Going to Heaven if Hank Williams Ain’t There’, the mix of country, rock and a hint of rebellious spirit recalls classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu.
If there’s one downside, it’s that at only seven songs and 28 minutes long the album is a touch on the short side – but with new songs already being written, Picnic Area will return with a new effort in new time. Hopefully when they do, the sun will come back too.