‘Lone Wolf’ has been a silent film, a book, a song, a TV series and a Native American chief, but never the alter ego of a singer, until Paul Marshall chose it to house his subtly sombre, gorgeously haunting songs.
Having used his own name for 2007’s acoustic-based debut Vultures, Lone Wolf signals a much expanded sound. His album dovetails perfectly with Bella Union’s stable of supreme melodicists and outstanding vocalists, such as Fleet Foxes, John Grant and Stephanie Dosen. But The Devil & I stands alone, as lone wolves do. The melodies may be persuasively dreamy and the vocal delivery tender and restrained, but the mood is troubled.
Is the devil a female of the species? In the opening ‘This Is War’, the narrator confesses, “The demons are alive in her head… This ain’t a war I’ll be coming home from.” The tension subsides for ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’ that has the plaintive harmonies and acoustic warmth of Crosby, Stills & Nash, though that bucolic image fades as soon as Marshall warns his driver, “keep your eyes on the road / I have no desire to be the flower on the central reservation.” The song ends with the tension well and truly ramped, and so the album goes, shifting between troubadour tenderness and fleshed-out band drama.
“As I was writing the record,” Marshall recalls, “I started using lots of other instruments, like Wurlitzers, pianos, drums, trumpets, and before you know it, I wanted a string quartet on it, then a choir and a really big electric guitar. It got to the point when I realised that I hadn’t written Vultures 2, hence the name change.”
Vultures had its dark parts but little compares to these new songs, which grip like a vice, from murder ballad ‘15 Letters’ to the more oblique threat of ‘We Could Use Your Blood’ and ‘Buried Beneath The Tiles’, or strung across the triple whammy of ‘Russian Winter’, ‘Soldier’ and ‘Dead River’. And then there’s the two-part title track, from doomy-grey instrumental to the band version that closes the album on a haunted high.
Lone Wolf has momentarily abandoned his solitary alienation to play live with a backing band of Leeds peers – Lindsay Wilson (Grammatics), James Mabbett (Napoleon IIIrd) and James Kenosha. Following Wild Beasts’ singer Tom singling out Lone Wolf’s album as one of his hot tips for 2010, they’re supporting Wild Beasts on their UK tour this March. The Devil & I sounds like there’s little hope left, but in fact, it all begins here. Paul Marshall is metaphorically dead. Long live Lone Wolf.