Review by Graham Reid “Elsewhere” review of Situation Normal
It's accepted here at Elsewhere that not many people these days can get to the broken beauty of (some of) Bob Dylan's albums in the past two decades, and that many have passed on his collections of standards . . . which is their loss because as always he gets behind the story in those old lyrics and makes you think anew of them.
Auckland singer-songwriter Roger Marshall has a burred and sometimes strained edge to his vocals – nowhere near as ragged as Dylan's I hasten to add – but it adds depth, gravitas, weariness and occasionally a bemused detachment. Longest Night here sounds like newly minted standard, if a writer in the Forties had a poetic and cosmic vision.
Marshall does an excellent speak-sing style of contemporary and urban blues (the Dylanesque Wudaokou and the dark vision of the ballad Undress Me which yearns for peace and redemption) and ably supports himself on guitar and harmonica (and carries a small band of keyboards, violin, bass and drums).
There is desperation here (Doing Life), Celtic mystery (Woman in the Mist) and the bleak future/present (the cracked cabaret sound of Lifeblood, the bitter folksy title track, the end of days for species in Last One Alive).
The final song Three Candles suggests the dying of the light and has a sense of acceptance . . . and an appreciation of the moment.
This, it seems from his interesting website, is fifty-adjacent Roger Marshall's sixth album (all in excellent and artistic covers by his son too) and you do have to wonder why he hasn't been widely acclaimed.
Yes, there are evident influences here (Waits, Dylan, alt.country among them) but on the evidence of this he has a voice and a vision which is all his own . . . and so deserves to be spoken about in the same company as our finest writers.
These are sharp, observational and thoughtful songs of experience.