Vinny Peculiar's quirky pseudonym is likely to give a false impression. Although clearly a square peg in a round hole, when it comes to fitting in with 'ordinary' life, there's no studied eccentricity or attempted exaggeration of his outsider status.
Born Alan Wilkes, his consistently fine songs have a poignancy but, above all, an uncomplicated honesty. He's not trying to be someone he isn't.
For instance, he takes the blame for a break up in a relationship, not as a cheating scoundrel, but merely as someone who now wants to live on his own; "I miss you every day but I need to be alone" he sings to his ex on the closing track, Game Over. A justification for this could be that being single gives a boost to his creative flow, an outcome scotched with the closing line of On Rainbow Hill: "I finished with me when I finished with you..
Most of these reflections are centred in or around Bromsgrove near Birmingham in the English Midlands. This unfashionable setting is all part of the appeal of Vinny Peculiar who by now is all but resigned to being one of those names revered by the few not the many. Remarkably, this is his 14th album and as unlikely as the previous thirteen to be his breakthrough release.
His record label is named after the firm of undertakers in Billy Liar and there are many other, mainly UK centred, cultural references peppered throughout the record. The older you are, the more you'll identify with the sentiments expressed and the more you recognize, the more you'll understand where he's coming from.
For instance, The Grove & The Ditch is set in 1974 and name checks glam rockers T.Rex and cheesy Radio 1 deejay Tony Blackburn.
In The Malvern Winter Gardener is full of faded rock star dreams with memories of listening to The Grateful Dead in a potting shed.
It's a safe bet that Vinny P is well schooled in punk but he appreciates the liberation of the three-chord wonders more profoundly for knowing that this was preceded by dull rockers like Wishbone Ash and arty pub rock bands like Be Bop Deluxe.
A very specific set of memories form the basis to a touching song dedicated the late Clifford T.Ward, whose 15 minutes fame came in 1973 with the piano ballad 'Gaye'. Ward was Wilkes' English teacher at the time and in The Singing Schoolteacher he reflects that he'd like to have known him better: "He was an inspiration when I was a kid. And he still is".
On a lighter , and more contemporary, note, Detroitwich imagines Eminem lost in the "deepest darkest heart of rural Worcestershire".
The idea of Marshall Mathers rapping in the Midlands is about as incongruous as Alan Wilkes rocking in Michigan. As Estate Agents are fond of saying, it all comes down to location, location, location.
Vinny Peculiar's website