Album Reviews

S.J. Downes: Lion’s Path – “finger-picking road dog blues”

The aloof finger-picking troubadour releases his latest E.P.

Hertfordshire-based S.J. Downes swept through Liverpool some years ago and has since been something of a drifter.

During his stay on Merseyside, Downes‘ folk-inspired instrumentals caught the ear of local record label, Mellowtone Records, and years later both artist and label combine to bring us Downes‘ latest E.P., Lion’s Path.

In short, any artist who drops a ditty entitled Death Blues not only piques the interest, but pretty much reaffirms that it cannot be anything other than good.

In its 18 minutes of glory, Lion’s Path draws on the traditions of folk and deep south-inspired blues that captures a charming intimacy.

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Echoes of John Fahey and Chuck Johnson spring to mind, however recorded on two magnetic tape machines, these analogue recording methods give Lion’s Path an AM-era warmth. The songs feel close to you and it’s down to these lo-fi production techniques.

S.J. Downes - Lion's Path

It starts with All My Life. A song that feels like it was conceived on some back road in Kentucky with the aid of the state’s finest bourbon.

The aforementioned Death Blues follows – a silky folk cut that drips slowly into your pores. With sombre harmonicas, The Light Will Shine and A Better Way are a lovely combination, with cinematic hazy sunset qualities to them.

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In a recent interview with, it’s evident that Downes is an old-world audiophile not born for these times. His recording techniques are Lion’s Path finest quality, shrouding the listener with a nostalgic, immediate feeling. It gives Downes‘ aesthetic an organic authenticity, with an apparent loneliness attached to these songs.

It’s finger-picking road dog blues to accompany journeys on unsealed dusty terrains.

Downes finds a sense of comfort in solitude here and it will be interesting to see where he goes to from here.

Lion’s Path is out now via Mellowtone Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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