I discovered Villagers in a church. Not a place markontour frequents or, indeed, expects to find enlightenment. But I do like the bit of religious observance that involves singing and the church in question had been turned into a temporary concert venue as part of the Port Eliot Festival. In any case it was the kind of gig one never forgets and it led me to Villagers’ beautiful new album, ‘Where Have You Been All My Life’, recorded in one day at the RAK Studios in London.
This is an album to stick on the record player and lie back and do nothing else but listen. Singer-songwriter, Conor O’Brien, has the Belle and Sebastian knack of combining morose lyrics with cheery tunes. ‘Hot Scary Summer’, for example, describes the challenges of being a young gay man in a Friday night town centre with “all the pretty young homophobes looking out for a fight”, backed by a beatifically strummed guitar and gorgeous vocal harmony. Lilting along to a melody not a million miles away from Karen Dalton’s ‘Are You Leaving For The Country?’, ‘Courage’ asks “Do you really want to know / about these lines on my face?”.
These are all wonderful, original, songs, but the stand out moment of ‘Where Have You Been All My Life’, and its moment of divine inspiration, is a sublime cover version of ‘Wichita Lineman‘. If religion is the opium of the people then, as a friend of mine put it, ‘Wichita Lineman’ is musical crack. Judging by the number of times it has been on repeat on the markontour turntable I’d say I am an addict. Play it and reveal why music is all the religion anyone needs.