Darren Black is not a man to repeat himself. His previous album was inspired by his boyhood in industrial south Wales but Wisperau is a meditation on the seasons in rural Hampshire where he now lives. I suppose that every songwriter feels compelled to do something of the sort at some time – the trick is to be original. Darren goes for originality by writing a suite of four songs coupled with four sets of paired instrumental pieces with titles drawn from the lyrics. This gives him a chance to show off his fiddle playing but to my mind it’s a trifle short, clocking in at just about half an hour. But, come to think of it, that’s what LPs used to be back in the day.
The other good thing about this album is that all the tracks could sit comfortably into any live set. The opener, ‘Pale Winter Blue’, is a painting in words and Darren talks about deer making their silent display – I imagine that to be hoof prints in the snow. But he also remarks that a whiteout is rare these days, something that anyone who has moved to this part of the country from less balmy climes knows far too well.
‘Chalk Streams In Sunbeams’ is about the renewal of life in spring and Darren picks on the reappearance of butterflies – let’s hope that they will not become a rare sight – but also the return of migratory birds, notably seabirds coming back to their summer home on the Solent. ‘Sow It Right’ feels like a love song wrapped up in the metaphor of ploughing and sowing but it’s rather melancholy. I’d hate to think of Darren going through a bad patch but that’s how it feels. Perhaps it’s just poetic licence.
Finally, ‘Queen Of The Forest’ is another painting in words, a description of a great tree shedding its (her) leaves and standing like “a waiting mannequin” and “a sylph-like skeleton”. Somehow, Darren manages to bring a sexual element to the song, or is that just me? The production is simplicity itself: just fingerstyle acoustic guitars and voice with overdubbed violin on the tunes and ‘Queen Of The Forest’ and it’s all rather lovely.
Artist’s website: www.darrenblack.net
‘Chalk Streams In Sunbeams’: