Kete Bowers was born in Birkenhead, Liverpool and if the town has a visitor welcome centre they’d do well not to publicise this album.
“This album is about the place I was born and grew up, and finally left”, Bowers says and, suffice to say, if he has any happy memories they didn’t make the cut. “Some things I remember, Lord I wish I could forget” he sings with unrestrained bitterness on Northside.
There is a distinct lack of any nostalgia for his Merseyside roots. A Town With No Cheer is the title of one track; he sings of choking streets in Ghosts and in Northern Town observes how “this place looks just like hell”.
‘Paper Ships’ is Bowers’ second album and his first for 9 years. It was recorded in Toronto, Canada and produced by Michael Timmins of The Cowboy Junkies. Members of that esteemed band play on the record.
Some of Bowers’ influences can be gauged from the vinyl copies of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash albums propped up in the background of the cover portrait. Valerie Jarvis’ photo shows the singer sitting in the shadows and reflects the fact that there is very little light in the nine songs on this record.
The only humour he can summon up is jet black; “I used to be a winner, I guess I lost my touch” he says with bitter understatement on Winner, the album’s single.
You Stole My Joy is the closing track. Much the same sentiment was once expressed by Lucinda Williams but while she sang with venomous sense of resentment, the impression Bowers gives is that of a man mortally wounded by life’s slings and arrows. If there was once rage, this has now evaporated.
There’s a certain authenticity to all this but I couldn't help longing for a wider perspective and some hope in the dark.
Hear Paper Ships at Bandcamp