Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
Although The Diamond Family Archive may sound like the name of a big band, it consists only of one man, by the name of Laurence Collyer. Settled on the south coast of England in Brighton, this ZZ-Top-bearded singer is a veritable jack of all trades in the music business. Along with writing, recording and producing his own songs through his own label, he also drops in to play with other local British bands and occasionally records EPs on friends’ labels. It’s near impossible to know how many albums Collyer has put out between his own projects and colleagues’ and he often limits printed album copies to less than 100 (including hand drawn artwork and other treasures). Despite being this busy, The Diamond Family Archive’s website labels him “reclusive.”
Collyer started out in a 10-piece Brighton band named Chimp that recorded two albums together in 2001 and 2002. He soon quit Chimp and poured his heart into writing his own music, which resulted in his formation of The Diamond Family Archive. His live performances are said to be a wonder of looping soundscapes, soft folk vocals and various acoustic instruments married with sorrowful lyrics.
In 2009, The Diamond Family Archive released The Wanderer, a 12-track album consisting entirely of cover songs. Perusing some of the well-known titles, it would be easy to blow off his cover choices as novelty. “Runaround Sue” as a folk song? Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman?” But what Laurence Collyer does is pour out his heart in the same way he does in his original work. In turn, each song becomes heartbreak with his lonely voice and sparse arrangement. It’s clear that this guy has loved and lost…and is still losing.
Below, we present some album cuts and live gems, including the title track “The Wanderer.” With Dion’s original version, “The Wanderer” was a song of bragging rights, but in Collyer’s hands it’s a story of a desperate man who can’t commit. Along this same theme is a cover of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” apparently sung by the same desperate man meandering through life alone.
Also below is a near unidentifiable cover of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” and a take on the ’80s country duet “Islands In The Stream” by Kenny Loggins and Dolly Parton. Somehow this ultimate kitschy love song becomes the opposite in The Diamond Family Archive’s world: a modern indie ballad worthy of a mix tape to your new girlfriend. Finally, Collyer uncovers the old-timey spiritual buried not too far beneath Norman Greenbaum’s monster hit “Spirit in the Sky.”