Dave Hemingway’s musical journey began when he learnt to play the drums at school and since then he has never looked back. Sharing lead vocals with Paul Heaton in The Housemartins, the duo then went on to form The Beautiful South in 1988. When that band split in 2007 he and Heaton went their separate ways, Hemingway was the front man for The New Beautiful South which later changed to The South. After leaving in 2017 he is now back with his latest project, Sunbirds and their debut album, Cool To Be Kind.

Teaming up with The South’s guitarist, and long time songwriter and collaborator Phil Barton, seasoned session drummer Marc Parnell and newcomer vocalist and violinist Laura Wilcockson, Hemingway has surrounded himself with a wealth of talent.

The first of the twelve tracks on this album is Meet You On The Northside, a song that Hemingway co-wrote. It’s up tempo beat has a real Deacon Blue feel about it, but it is the wonderful lyrics that place this song firmly in Kingston upon Hull, where Hemingway still lives. With excellent guitar work from Barton this song takes the listener to the other side of the River Humber.

The undoubted track of the album is Hatred Lies In The Ruins Of Love. Despite its sombre title this song feels like a jolly jape. Written by Barton (who writes or co-writes eleven of the twelve tracks) along with Kenny Grant, its lyrics are down to earth and ones that the listener can relate to. Beautiful South songs always told a story and these new songs do exactly the same.

There is a real Beautiful South vibe about this album and that in itself is not a bad thing. Holiday Monday, written about making the most of a day’s holiday, showcases Wilcockson’s beautiful harmonies which sit very well with Hemingway’s and she certainly would not have been out of place in a Beautiful South line-up.

Gene Kelly is a real sing along song and will undoubtedly have a crowd bopping along with its catchy chorus, when the opportunity arises for Sunbirds to perform live. Insert Answer Here is a slower song which sees Hemingway’s vocals face fierce competition from Wilcockson’s mean and moody voice which is packed with emotion and soul.

These new songs clearly embrace lots of influences like When I’m Gone which could have come straight from The Beatles’ catalogue whilst Big Moneymaker has a definite Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits sound to it. Even the slow The Black Sea could have come straight from the Chris Difford song book and with its great guitar interlude the song rises up to a great crescendo before it drags the listener back down again.

Please Yourself has excellent keyboard work and if Beautiful People was heard on the radio, with its delicious harmonies, it could be mistaken for a Beautiful South song. The harmonies and catchy chorus just make you want to smile.

Finishing the album with Stars Still Shine, Sunbirds have delivered with skilful production from Teo Miller, an album of songs where the lyrics are truthful, funny and yet painfully honest. It’s an album that lasts just over forty four minutes but when it’s on the CD player the time passes very quickly.

Cool To Be Kind is a must have album which helps us to forget the Covid-19 pandemic and lust after the days when this amazing new band can deliver their songs live.

Our Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Number of tracks: 12

Running time: 43:45

Released on: Nectar Records

Release date: 27th November 2020

Formats: CD/DL

To purchase: https://sunbirds.co.uk