The fact that there’s an ‘Apollo’ here means that I can make a pun on his new album being ‘out of this world’ or something similar. Forgive me for that, but at least it’s been done now. All joking aside, the Arkansas man’s second UK release (after last year’s ‘Till Your Feet Bleed’) can be summed up in three words: daring and impressive. He’s taken influences from a number of genres and mixed them all together to create his sound, and ‘Born Lucky’ is transformed in something special by the fact that there is not a single wrong turn taken across any of its eight songs.
The album’s title is an example of the tongue-in-cheek humour that he enjoys; the title track has him lamenting the lack of luck he has in his life (‘Better to be born lucky or not be born at all, than living in this hole I’m in, watching paint thin on the wall’). The spine-tingling climax of the opening song, ‘All Love’s Pilgrims’ features him sounding like he’s about to have a complete nervous breakdown, coming across as an intense moment of release after its mournful beginnings and lyrics about digging his own grave, which are heartfelt whilst not being the most cheerful ever penned. This is an album that mixes various shades of light and dark.
There are plenty of other goosebump-inducing moments, too, notably on the brass-assisted ‘Grandad’s Morphine And Wine’ and the album highlight ‘The Violins’, far and away the most powerful song on a record that is positively dripping with them. Some might call him melodramatic, but the man certainly knows how to display passion. ‘Call off the violins/I’m not ready to leave here,’ he sings. This is a good thing; for UK audiences he’s scarcely even arrived. He may not have been born lucky, but there’s no question about his luck being in on what is one of the most captivating albums released so far this year. You could even say he’s achieved lift-off.