The arrival of White Gates continues what has proven to be a very busy 2019 so far for Alfie Neale. Hot on the heels of one of this year’s first and so far finest releases, Tongue Tied, the Brighton-based songwriter-producer’s quality shows no sign of slipping, with this release a further choice cut from his by now well-consolidated live set. The artist’s recent sell-out at The Haunt saw one reviewer label Neale “one of the most popular and charismatic artists [the city] has produced for years.” Much to live up to, then.           

White Gates suggests the sound of Neale opening the rum bottle this time more for the craic than sorrow-drowning purposes. ‘

Trailed by fortuitous coincidence in a rare British winter heatwave, White Gates is medium-paced lolloper of a reggae number; true to Neale’s genre-hopping repertoire, albeit a departure from the deeper emotional reflection of his previous release and last year’s Liquor Dreams. White Gates suggests the sound of Neale opening the rum bottle this time more for the craic than sorrow-drowning purposes.

‘[With White Gates] you will be whistling along before you know it; quite possibly for the rest of the day. ‘

A seductive solo guitar lead-off is soon subsumed with pulsing bass and crash cymbals, punctuating an off-beat rhythm. Neale employs dual-harmonising saxophones to create a memorable fanfare riff throughout the song. You will be whistling along before you know it; quite possibly for the rest of the day. Neale brings a levity and playfulness to the tune, while his trademark soulful vocal and lyrical word-play is present, ensuring that this feels stylistically and reassuringly his own. As with other releases, the genre-hop is a confident and genuine one. Neale doesn’t do pastiche, he feels that he belongs wherever he chooses to take his music.

Neale’s reputation for thoughtful song writing and attention to details is further enhanced with White Gates. The lyrical references to soul-searching, devils on shoulders and celestial gates create an undercurrent for what is, superficially at least, an upbeat number. Neale delivers sting in the line “waiting for the day that you might come and show your faces, is it too much for you?” It doesn’t compromise the mood. The singer refuses to be knocked out of his purposeful stride and if anyone should be worrying about redemption day, then it’s not him.  

‘Is the sky even the limit to this young man’s ambitions?’

In his short career so far, Alfie Neale hasn’t so much ripped up the rule book as refused to even acknowledge its existence. Never mind reaching the White Gates, is the sky even the limit to this young man’s ambitions?

Words Iain Dalgleish.

8/10

Alfie Neale’s first ever video interview exclusive to Underscore Part 3 coming soon.

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