Album review: Darren Hayman And The Secondary Modern - Essex Arms (Fortuna Pop)

The lyrical troubadour shines a folksy light on modern Essex life.

The former Hefner frontman’s LP output now in double figures, one might wonder whether he’s peaked already.

But give this 12-song set a spin and it’s immediately clear Hayman is not only still pushing our folk-pop buttons, but smacking us with a multi-instrumental blindside to boot.

Second in a trilogy on Essex, Hayman’s home county, it boasts songs about “love in unloved places” - be it illicit car park sex, staged woodland dog fights or post-industrial decline (the exquisitely sagging Dagnham Ford).

A solid, soulful orchestra bolsters and stretches his bucolic English folk songs into new territory, partnered with a refreshing lyrical mix of romance and brusqueness delivered with characterful vocals.

Woozy, warm, ironic, humourous, snappy and sad by turns, this is a keeper.

4 stars