‘If ever there was a time for quiet contemplation and appreciation of what we hold most dear, then 2020 is it – which is lucky if, like John Cullimore, those two things are your trademarks.
His music always provides complementary portions of unhurried reflection and upbeat tunes celebrating life’s inspirations – and his latest album, Splendid Island, is a case in point.
The island of the title is Sri Lanka, and the album opens with a suite of four tracks dedicated to it and its people, culminating in the appropriately multi-layered, unconventional and mystical Universal (a strong contender for best track on the album).
All four tracks echo travels in the Sub-Continent by writer Alfred Williams, the inspiration for John’s landmark album, The Hammerman, and Williams is also referenced in Rise Up. Written some years ago, to help adapt The Hammerman as a stage musical, it is a typically thoughtful and suitably stirring addition that therefore sits well in Splendid Island.
You may also detect the spirit of Williams the naturalist in the happy Spanish Moss, a charming track with a bright guitar solo, which somehow comes out sunnier even than John’s effective Beach Boys cover, Keep an Eye on Summer.
While the Sri Lankan suite may be a timely reminder of how foreign destinations inspired us in happier days, the rest of the album demonstrates that in these stranger times, inspiration can (and should) also be found closer to home.
So there are tracks celebrating the joys of family (Queen of the Skies), a pet (Unconditional) and a rainy afternoon.
Rainy Afternoon is the purest, most stripped-back, uncomplicated acoustic track you are likely to hear from anyone this year, and is precisely two minutes and 17 seconds of proof that the beautifully simple can also be simply beautiful.
Splendid Island is evidence that John Cullimore, a retired surgeon, is making splendid use of his time, and in this extraordinary year, one can’t help but also conclude that it is just what the doctor ordered.’