Miracles For Beginners is trademark Nick - perfectly constructed folk tunes with impassioned, and often witty, lyricism. He is not afraid to reveal his influences too. There are clear signs of his father's high-wire acoustic flourishes, abstruse writing and sexy Lancastrian delivery. Present too are echoes of the crisp tune-smithery of long time collaborator Glen Tillbrook, most notably on ''Always''.
However, this Harper set is a little patchy, especially if compared alongside 1995's Seed and 2004's Blood Songs which updated brilliantly the folk confessional. There are stand out tracks of course - Harper always oozes fine tunes and searing deliveries - but there are fillers too.
Favourites include The Field of the Cloth of Gold', where he sets a whimsical drama to some fabulous guitar picking. Harper imagines himself back in the great days of Albion 'trying to lend some honour to the family name'. Also, the political ''Evo Morales'', is thought provoking, and the closing track ''Simple'', a lovely lyric set alongside melodies by the Deep Thought Choir. Harper implores us to keep 'all together now - we've got everything we need and more'.
There are fine moments on Miracles For Beginners, but all too often obscure introspection leaves songs hanging in mid air. Harper though must be applauded for trying be a politically inclined sort of modern troubadour. He wants to balance folk perennials like love and longing with social conscience. --Charles De Ledesma
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