COOPE BOYES & SIMPSON – Coda (No Masters NMCD48)

CodaSubtitled A Concluding Event, Coda marks the beginning of the end for Coope Boyes & Simpson. They’ll be playing some gigs next year to say farewell and individually and collectively they are involved in numerous projects so I doubt we’ve seen the last of them. It’s hard to credit but they are all grandfathers and have been together as a trio for a quarter of a century but if this really is the end of the road it’s a damn good way to go out.

Coda feels very much like a CBS retrospective made up entirely of new songs. Themes and styles are drawn from every aspect of their career. The opening track, ‘The Avenging Angel’ is a lyric by Jim Boyes set to the tune of ‘Palms Of Victory’ – old hymn tunes are never too far away and there is much borrowing of traditional tunes here. The subject is the succession of wars in the Middle East and the song has the fire in its belly that was evident on their first album, Funny Old World.

From recent projects come ‘From Hereabout Hill/May Song’ sung in the Michael Morpurgo show Where My Wellies Take Me – another blend of modern and traditional – and Boo Hewerdine’s ‘The Man That I Am’, re-recorded from The Ballads Of Child Migration. The unadulterated tradition gives us ‘Napoleon’s Dream’ and ‘Flandyke Shore’ and Jim Boyes twice refers back to traditional themes. The first is ‘The Drovers’ Way’, a celebration of the green lanes that were the chief routes for moving livestock. There is a suggestion at the end that when everything goes pants the green lanes will reappear. The second is ‘The Bright Ploughshare’ which sounds a bit like the mythical rural idyll also seems to carry a warning for the future.

The trio takes a similar view of the fishing industry in ‘Bound By The Fishing’, playfully working in the names of musicians up and down the east coast. Lester Simpson’s ‘Twilight Hunter’ deconstructs Stan Rogers’ ‘Northwest  Passage’ as he considers the fate of the Inuit who are now becoming a tourist attraction and considers mass migration in ‘If We Were Them’. It’s not all deadly serious, however, and CBS return to Michael Marra with his delightfully surreal ‘Frida Kahlo’s Visit To The Taybridge Bar’.

There is directness to this album which takes the listener back to Barry, Jim and Lester’s early days as a trio. They have done much more complicated things: The Peace Concerts, Christmas shows, the Great War presentations and perhaps the ultimate in traditional singing that was Triple Echo but here we have three voices with those unmistakable harmonies aided only by “The No Master’s Voices” and you can guess who they might be. Coda is a glorious finale to a long career.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://www.coopeboyesandsimpson.co.uk/

‘Anthem For A Planet’s Children’ – live: