I find it all too easy to mock “surfer music”, but I'll think twice now I've heard Kim Churchill

Living in a ‘surfer’ town has given me a heightened sense of cynicism and distain when it comes to self-styled wandering troubadours. Far too often these camper-van-living dropouts think that playing acoustic guitar and ukelele makes them an multi-instrumentalist, and knowing a couple of jaunty cadences and a major 7th chord makes them a songwriter. Even the ones with genuine talent (the John Butlers and Xavier Rudds of the world) rarely feel like a ‘complete package’ – the guitar playing will be excellent, but the lyrics will leave a lot to be desired, for instance†.

The cover image of Fear The Fire by Kim Churchill

What’s worse is that their success invariably pulls a horde of also-rans and wannabes into the spotlight with them. The market place is simply swamped; surfer-singer-songwriter supply far exceeds demand, and there wasn’t all that much demand to start with. In short, to make a mark in this genre, to impress, to be taken seriously, an act has to be very, very good indeed. Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter and surfer Kim Churchill is exactly that good.

The double-A-side 7” single Some Days The Rain May Fall / Fear The Fire came out in late January as a teaser for his upcoming album. You can download Some Days The Rain May Fall for free on his Bandcamp page, and it’s a really nice track; subtly produced with a good ear for layering and textures, this is already a cut above most other singer-songwriters. However, it’s the second track, Fear The Fire, that’s had me constantly resetting the needle on this fine 7”.

Fear The Fire swiftly erases any pre-conceptions the listener might have developed after reading Kim Churchill’s biog. This music is big, this music is weighty, this music has a scope and ambition that far outstrips any constraints of genre or expectation. I’m a sucker for well-executed dynamic shifts, and on that count Fear The Fire is a masterclass. I defy any of you to listen without breaking out into spontaneous air-drumming; I know I can’t. Fear The Fire is fabulous, and I can’t wait for Kim Churchill’s album.

† *cough cough* John Butler *cough cough*