King Charles - Gamble for a Rose
It's been a while since King Charles (AKA Charles Costa) last graced his public, four years in fact since 2012's LoveBlood. Since then Charles has downsized his mane, supported his longtime pals Mumford and Sons on the road, survived a brain trauma, played countless shows and festivals all while working on Gamble for a Rose. The previous album was eleven songs showcasing his dynamics for producing quality folk, rock and bubble-gum pop that shockingly failed to trouble the UK charts. Now he's returned with a more mature singer-songwriter record, fitting in with the current climate. It's the album that Charles always wanted to make.
Gamble For A Rose will attract the lovers of Mumford And Sons (Marcus Mumford produced and co-wrote a few songs here), Paolo Nutini and Ryan Adams. Charles has a perfect voice that can as easily accompany an acoustic guitar as much as a full band: one moment gentle, the next a yelp. Thematically this could easily be labeled a break-up record. Has Charles been nursing a broken heart since the optimistic LoveBlood? So many of the tracks are about loss or longing, as seen on album opener and recent single 'Loose Change For The Boatman' (co written with former Noah and the Whale singer Charlie Fink) "You say your love for me has waned from the storm / Your passions have fallen from the flames of old" Charles has certainly moved away from the joyful nonsense of former single 'Bam Bam'.
The record's one flaw is that it lacks the surprise element of his previous effort. It's a fairly straight forward affair; guitar, bass, drums. And the odd gloss of a string section to add majesty to the likes of 'St Peter's Gate' and 'Tomorrows Fool', while 'Lady of the River' and 'New Orleans' allow the King to let his hair down with a change of pace, sounding much more in line with the latest from Marcus' lot. The album doesn't always keep the quality control consistent and a few twiddly slower tracks like 'In Silhouette' and 'Carry Me Away' struggle to captivate. But overall Gamble For A Rose is a record that Charles can be proud of. Is it better than his debut? Debatable. It misses that albums lovable quirks and instant appeal.
There is more than enough quality songwriting on offer but it's as a live act that King Charles comes into his own. His upcoming tour is a chance to hear these songs at their very best.