Nothing about Gerry Cinnamon’s ascent feels natural. In less than two years he’s gone from a borderline unknown to an arena-seller in virtually one swift movement, and while many would assert that this is all off his own back, anyone who’s paid attention to the moves and shakes within the music industry over time is likely to view this a lot more critically. Hell, with Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi proving such efficient money-printers, why not try the same tactic once again, only with someone slightly older and rougher-around-the-edges to corner the indie end of the mainstream market? Combined with a typically populist image about paying no mind to fame or exposure and just wanting to make music, his everyman image and appeal has led to a retroactive swell around his 2017 debut Erratic Cinematic, and subsequently boosted the anticipation for its follow-up The Bonny exponentially. The radio’s certainly on his side, as is the touring and festival circuit (as belated as the full impact of that may be, given the current global situation), now backed by an industry that’s clearly placed value in the persona of an artist doing this all on his own, but who’s yet to truly deliver.
And with that in mind, it’s kind of funny that an artist who’s had the phrase “Who the fuck is Gerry Cinnamon?” follow him through his breakthrough is yet to come up with a conclusive answer, even at the biggest moment of his career yet. For all the hype and buzz that’s swirled around The Bonny for months now, it hasn’t stopped it from sounding like what you’d expect from any busker or protest singer, just a bit better produced to give the illusion of a budget behind it. That makes it difficult to see where the excitement has come from as well; Gerry Cinnamon is doing quite the opposite of pushing the musical conversation forward, and while there isn’t zero appeal here, what can be drawn from an album as barebones and frankly boring as this is greatly limited.
It’s tough to know where to even start because there’s so little to say. This really isn’t an album that demands deeper analysis or observation, as there’s barely anything there for which that could be given to. Evidently it’s been made to sound as homespun as possible given the primary instrumental setup is a simple acoustic guitar line with occasionally some percussion and harmonica, but that’s really it. Any sharpening or cleaning up in the production is minimal (though Mayhem’s driving pulse does feel thin enough to be synthesised), and for the image that Gerry is trying to cultivate here, that works fine enough. Granted, it’s hardly gritty enough to be all that compelling, especially when it can be hard to differentiate between songs towards the album’s second half when the similarities between tracks really do start to bleed together. It’s an album that’s crying out for more variety akin to darker, smokier vibe of War Song Soldier or the more band-centric efforts like Where We’re Going and Sun Queen, but when those moments are so few and far between, what’s left is a pretty stock folk album with very little going for it.
Of course, with albums like this, the typical saving grace hinges on the performer themselves rather than the music, and while Gerry is something of a redeeming factor, he still isn’t capable of much that’s worth coming back to. He does admittedly have a good voice with a raspier tone that’s not too unlike the Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones in places, but then there’s the frequent switches between a more Americanised version of his Scottish accent and one that plays up the dialect and syntax of his natural speaking pattern, and that makes the disconnect between lighter songs and moments that are more serious feel all the more galling. As much as Canter or the title track are designed with the uplifting singalong vibe in mind – particularly the former – there’s a novelty-song factor about them that comes with how played-up Gerry’s voice seems to be, and when that’s placed next to War Song Soldier and Dark Days which are much more grounded, it’s where colloquial, everyman image starts to feel more like an act than ever. There’s definitely sincerity behind this album, but marketability also comes as a key component; it’s why the writing doesn’t nearly feel as sharp as it could be given how the likes of the title track and Outsiders are segmented into distinct archetypes of emotions rather than having more flow or nuance to them, and Every Man’s Truth is a stab at being political that, when stuck to the very end of the album almost haphazardly, almost feels like an attempt to cover that ground at the very last minute out of necessity and expectation.
It’s why nothing about The Bonny feels like the big, important album it’s geared up to be. It certainly doesn’t feel like the output of an artist for whom things seem to be rocketing ahead for, nor does this feel all that special to warrant such a rise. It’s a very standard folk album, the likes of which never have much variation or colour, and given that Gerry Cinnamon’s take on that (if you can really even call it that) doesn’t deviate at all, there’s really nothing that’s worth revisiting to any great degree. Furthermore, it’s not even that possible to see how such a basic formula can be advanced or improved upon; it’s such a limited musical palette that it’ll take a pretty sizable overhaul to make much more out of it, and it doesnt feel as though that’s really in the cards. This is the sort of thing that seems to be working, and even though the reason why can be seen, it doesn’t mean it has be liked or accepted.
For fans of: Jake Bugg, Liam Gallagher, Bob Dylan
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Bonny’ by Gerry Cinnamon is out now on Little Runaway Records.