King Charles has been emulating the grandeur of his title since the release of his debut, Loveblood, in 2012. He’s toured relentlessly in the last few years, headlined the London Forum in 2015, and recently supported Mumford & Sons at The o2 arena. These enviable experiences have allowed the songwriter to develop his graceful sound further on new album, Gamble For A Rose. If this record is King Charles’ attempt at taking a risk – it’s paid off. This is the album he “should have made five years ago”, and it’s another superb example of his ability to create honest, wholesome music which transcends the boundaries of indie & folk rock.
King Charles worked closely with Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) on this recording, and Mumford’s role as producer has strengthened the backbone of KC’s sturdy collection of songs. On introductory track ‘Loose Change For The Boatman’, King Charles is as liberal and acute as ever in his lyricism. He lives in extremes – “I’m a lion in the haze and a lamb in the lightning” – and lays himself bare for the listener’s pleasure: “Take the breath that’s in my lungs in the song I’m singing”. The following thoughtful, up-tempo lullaby ‘Animal Desires’ will impress with its universal truth of human love: “You can’t deny you’re an animal, with an animal’s desires”.
If you’re looking for some stellar, stadium-sized guitar solos, skip to any of the following tracks: ‘Lady Of The River’, ‘St. Peters Gate’ or ‘Tomorrow’s Fool’. The latter has more of KC’s wise lyricism – “Beware, romantic gestures are investments in your vanity” – and a catchy melody. Eponymous track ‘Gamble For A Rose’ is a smooth three minutes of effortless, melodic, slow guitar and is accompanied by a quaint set of orchestral strings, whilst ‘New Orleans’ celebrates KC’s “dream girl” and repeats the life-affirming lyric “Live – you are young”.
It’s this “living” which has allowed King Charles to finely tune his emotions, and this is evident on ‘Choke’. This track will resonate with listeners who have been left breathless and stunned by the “turbulence and turmoil” of a broken relationship. The song slowly builds in momentum, culminating in a cathartic release of guitar and drums, with KC consistently asking, pleading: “Why did you choke all my love away?”. His romanticised version of physical breathlessness makes ‘Choke’ the stand-out track on the album. From obstructed airways to shadows; ‘In Silhouette’ is a melancholy musing on the draining of colour from life and love: “What’s in colour now will soon be in a silhouette”. The album avoids closing on too sad a note with the help of final song ‘Coco Chitty’, a track which sees KC secure in his adoration for “the one” who comprises his “heart and… soul”.
It seems that King Charles’ fears are entirely human. Like all of us; he fears the ending of love, of life, and the lack of time we have to appreciate the beauty of both. Fortunately, on Gamble For A Rose, he’s transformed his fear in to fluid, fearless love songs which will smooth over the scars on any hurt, but hopeful heart. Remember that “Love is knocking at your door, just dying to hear you speak” – and when that invitation comes from King Charles, it’s very hard to refuse.
Gamble For A Rose is released on 22nd January via Buffalo Gang Limited.