It is difficult to name many people who have been on as much of a musical journey through their career as Charlie Simpson. With a cv that includes Brit Award winning Busted and critically acclaimed alternative rock outfit Fightstar, as well as having released his own debut solo album, Simpson has been a multi genre success for over a decade and he’s only just turned 29!
Having released his solo debut Young Pilgrim in 2011, which saw him venture down an acoustic folk-rock route for the first time and peak at number six in the UK albums chart, it remained to be seen whether Simpson could avoid the second album hoo-doo and after listening to Long Road Home, it is safe to say that he has. From the album artwork to the instrumentation and lyrics, Long Road Home is an album that oozes honesty and sincerity and Simpson’s songwriting talents come to the fore immediately.
Opening with title track ‘Long Road Home’ which features accomplished harmonies that go on to become a main feature of the album and combined with soft piano and acoustic riffs perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. Upbeat acoustic-heavy ‘Comets’, which could easily be a new Mumford and Sons track, sees Simpson discussing relationship issues with the lyrics “Soldiers with heavy hearts/just reach out into the dark”.
‘Winter Hymns’, which was the first single released from the album, is a warm, harmonious ode to love that has a country music feel at points with the additional use of strings providing a fuller and more complete sound compared to the album’s more stripped back offerings. Soulful, love-letter ‘Emily’ is the most intimate point in the album which sees Simpson detailing his feelings for Emily with the words “Close your eyes Emily and I’ll be with you”. The track uses time signature changes to perfection which really emphasises the passionate feelings of the song by highlighting the most tender and meaningful phrases beautifully.
‘Haunted’ was the second single to be released from Long Road Home and it is easy to see why as the “oh oh oh” chants give the track a real sing along feel and with the tempo being slightly more upbeat than the majority of the other tracks on the album, the song becomes somewhat danceable which keeps the album flowing nicely. ‘Would You Love Me Any Less’ continues along the album’s strong love theme and includes a strong climactic end as Simpson’s acoustic guitar is joined by a string ensemble, adding to the completeness and togetherness of the track.
‘Ten More Days’ is another of the album’s more up tempo tracks and has much more of a band feel about it than other offerings with Simpson showing why he had such success writing for his previous bands; with the positive “keep your head up” refrain repeated throughout, the track is a rise in the emotional rollercoaster that is Long Road Home, with a much more positive feel than some of it’s fellow tracks.
‘Blood’ is one of the highlights of the album and could easily have been chosen as a lead single with the bass playing a more major role than in previous tracks. The song’s enchanting ending with the lyrics, “Blood is on our hands and all I can do is just wait for you to come round and save me” is a heartwarming and stirring end to a poignant track that exemplifies the tone of the release perfectly.
‘Still Young’ clings onto the album’s country music undertones and is the last opportunity for a potential sing-a-long with it’s catchy, anthemic chorus as the albums final two tracks ‘Forty Thieves’ and ‘Another Year’ revert back to the dramatic, acoustic singer-songwriter template. Album closer ‘Another Year’, in particular, is a Ben Howard-inspired, delicate, sensitive track that combines guitar, piano and drums to bring the album to a calming and thought provoking conclusion.
Long Road Home shows Simpson at his songwriting peak; with the ability to write songs with such rawness and emotional honesty and with an album that eclipses his debut in terms of quality, Simpson can consider himself a successful solo artist. Whilst fans of Fightstar may not necessarily fully embrace the sound of his solo releases, fans of Busted will be much more welcoming of this mature and sophisticated album but unfortunately the certain success of the album will end any possible hope of a Charlie Simpson and McBusted reunion as Simpson’s confidence in his solo releases will be at an all time high.