David Nigel Lloyd calls California his home now, but his music remains thoroughly steeped in the English influences which initially molded his talents. Lloyd’s latest release in a long career filled with music is Of Service in Rosemary Lane, a ten-track effort that uses Lloyd’s longtime love and admiration for legendary guitarist Bert Jansch’s 1960s gem “Rosemary Lane”. There is actually a confluence of elements going into this release, his love for another “acid folkie” of the era Robin Williamson shines through as well, but it’s all Lloyd in the end – his songwriting as incisive and poetic as ever and his voice, a deceptively elastic instrument, charging with the force and fury of human experience.
Anyone hoping for full-band arrangements should turn back now. Lloyd’s words, voice, and acoustic guitar are Of Service in Rosemary Lane’s world, and it never becomes wearisome. The beginning track “Sweet Nothingness Ask Not” doesn’t possess the sort of ornate and/or flowery language you might expect. Lloyd’s long experience as a poet has developed his skill to such a degree that the unfolding of the lyric matches the song’s musical trajectory virtually measure for measure.
“The Son of Old Rosin the Bow” creates a juxtaposition from the outset that Lloyd relies on much of the release. He pairs his spartan but nonetheless eloquent acoustic guitar work with his strong but leathery lower register. Lloyd doesn’t stay in that pitch for the entirety of the release, however, but his songs pass over untold miles thanks to this obvious marriage. The chorus of this song is one of the album’s finest and newcomers to his songwriting should have a tight grasp on his work by this point.
It’s clear that his writing occupies its own universe. The details and emotions expressed are grounded in a recognizable world a listener will relate to but the phrasing and the taste in imagery are Lloyd’s alone. “May Song” is an excellent embodiment of that with a slight phasing effect on Lloyd’s vocals. It doesn’t skew his delivery in a meaningful way nor dilute the song’s overall musical value. The album’s title song has a similar treatment to its predecessor’s vocals and, of course, it shares the same musical lineage as the album’s other nine songs.
He never risks overloading the tracks with lyrical content. Maintaining the balance between the musical and literary is near constant labor for songwriters such as Lloyd, but he makes sound effortless during this collection. This review attempts to sum up for readers/potential listeners the deceptive complexities of an album I greatly respect from the first time I heard it; its achievement is considerable. This form, however, cannot do it justice.
Yet I try. What does justice to the album are songs such as the album’s title cut, “Rosemary Lane”. This cover of the Jansch classic, itself a traditional jewel re-arranged by Jansch, doesn’t try aping the original note for note and remains faithful to the original. It’s one of several crowning touches that help distinguish David Nigel Lloyd’s Of Service in Rosemary Lane as one of 2022’s best releases.