I first caught sight of Pepe Belmonte way back in the last days of the summer. Just as the leaves were beginning to turn to gold, Pepe’s dulcit tones floated across a crowded Steeles Fest and I was enthralled – hooked, line and sinker.
Months on, and I have a cracking hangover. Jaegarbomb paranoia is at its hallucinogenic height, and Saturday looks like a mountain which I am not going to be able to climb. Stumbling out of my flat, in search of something – solace, sanctuary, hydration, who knows where; I tread on it – a package of salvation.
Right there in my un-hoovered hallway lies Pepe’s début album, The Hermit’s Waltz. Distracting me from my previous pursuit, I abort and retreat, silently hoping that I may have just been thrown a bone by some omni-benevolent being.
Pepe’s opening track To the Boys and Girls sets the scene for what is to become my revival.
His voice is difficult to capture, possessing all the necessary qualities to inspire Dylan-like comparisons. But, it’s more than that. Breathless at times, but nimble in a way that Bob’s has never been. Less pained, perhaps, but full of soul all the same.
The songs themselves are again difficult to define, folklike, telling stories that seem to be worth more than the sum of words. Harmonicas and strings appear at different times throughout, but always I waited for the return of the voice, to tell me the rest of the tale.
Characters weave in and out of the songs, a Lonely Lady, an old friend across the border, a waltzing hermit…. yet, it is the man that sings these songs of others that I wanted to know more of.
I lay, muted and motionless for the full ten tracks of the album and learnt much about the souls of the characters in the songs, but little about the man that sang them.
Glimpses of his own heart begin to creep out in Nothing blue except the sky but soon the lyrics have meandered back to the safer shores of singing about an other.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, there is no question in my mind – this album is a wonder. I just came away intrigued, intrigued to know more about the songsmith himself.
I guess that’s what second albums are for?
Pepe will be playing this Wednesday at Green Note.
The Camden Store Team X
Words: Pip Latimer