BEAU –When Butterflies Scream (Cherry Red BEAUWBS1)

When Butterflies ScreamWhat with the likes of Steve Pledger and Will Varley the last couple of years have seen quite a resurgence in the protest song album on the UK’s contemporary folk/Americana circuit, but some have been doing this for years. I’ve written about Trevor Midgley aka Beau on these pages before and it’s good to report that his latest album, When Butterflies Scream, ably keeps up the standard. Sounding more than ever like Jake Thackray in his vocal delivery, it is, as ever, a no frills musical affair, predominantly just him and acoustic guitar, that allows the comments and commentary to take front of stage.

It opens with ‘Who Pays The Ferryman?’ not, you’ll be relieved to hear, a Chris De Burgh cover but, set to a slow mazurka rhythm etched out on accordion (one of the most elaborate instrumentations on the album) and drawing on Greek mythology and the figure of Charon who ferried the dead across the River Styx if they had the coin to pay, his take on the refugee crisis and the traffickers who exploit it. It’s a theme to which he returns on the closing seven-minute lyrically harrowing ‘The Immigrant’ with its recounting of mass executions, genocide rapes and those consigned to risk their lives in taking flight to see, those who survive being herded into camps while the politicians debate their fate (“We’re not in the business of profit and loss!” “Sort out the doctors and leave out the dross!”).

If that’s about effect, then ‘Kill The Idea’ looks at cause and how military attempts to eradicate an idea in the name of freedom more often causes it to drift “into different shapes that were harder to shift.”

The album’s title comes from a disturbing image in ‘Gerrymander Street Blockade’, a story of murky political goings on and cover ups, followed by the waltzing ‘The Song of the Pox Doctor’s Clerk’, a surely cynical suggestion that some of the Honours List gongs are handed out to, a she puts it, those who know where the bodies are buried (“It would be remiss for me here to disclose all names and addresses, but yes, there were those with reasons to quaver and even to quail; My peerage, it seemed, had been lost in the mail!”).

Government politics resurface with ‘The Mandarin’, an observation on those who ensure ministers are all singing from the same hymn sheet in the service of doctrinal mandates (“Alas we can’t claim to be wholly immune from bribery, sleaze and the inopportune. So, best we desist from our scheduled schemes, toppling dictators from dishonest regimes”).

One of the most pointedly barbed numbers is ‘The Promise’, a timely reminder of how badly the country and the MoD in particular, often treats those injured in the service of their country once they return home as it tells of how a hero survivor of his unit suffers from PSTD and ends up a down and out committing suicide by walking into the sea because “somehow, the Military Covenant’s promise had simply gone out through the door; And all that remained was a shirt on his back and the ribbons he steadfastly wore.

Elsewhere he turns his eye on the use of armed military drones with ‘The Fire’, calling on Newton’s law that for every action there’s an equal opposite action and, basically, if something can go wrong it will (“Missiles pack a punch, and this one didn’t mess around – The fireball arriving above the speed of sound. In the end, they called it an “unfortunate event”; chances of it happening? Around fifteen percent”).

Taking an aspiring Stravinsky as an example, ‘Ben & Jerry’s Coca-Cola Tarantella’ is about selling out your soul (or ideals) to the devil, or in this case the commercial imperative while both ‘The Nightmare’ and ‘It’s Only Just Begun’ both sound an apocalyptic note, the former a talking blues response to the election of Donald Trump and the latter, with references to Nero, Genghis Khan, the bombing of Dresden, the Falklands conflict, Bhopal and the morning after 10/11, a tale of the Devil fuelling man’s proclivity for death and mass destruction.

The remaining number, ‘Smilin’ Billy Lye’, is less obvious, ostensibly the story of a dirt track rider who, envious of Motorcycle Show stunt champion Crash Donovan (the name a nod to the 1936 Highway Patrol movie) takes up his Tunnel of Fire challenge with enigmatic results, but there’s a cautionary string in its tale.

It’s sadly unlikely that this is going to attract the sort of attention and acclaim accorded the current crop of folk’s socio-political commentators or find an audience much beyond Midgley’s fanbase, but those who do seek it out will be well rewarded.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the BEAU –When Butterflies Scream link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website:   http://beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk/

There are no videos from the album available yet but here’s the opening track, ‘Who Pays The Ferryman’ in glorious living sound.

BEAU – An Original Thought (Cherry Red BEAUAOT1)

Beau - An Original ThoughtHaving gone totally off the radar after the release of his 1971 album, 12-string maestro Trevor Midgley finally resurfaced on Cherry Red in 2011 with a series of remasterings or re-recordings. The following year he released his first collection of new material in 41 years and now seems to be doing so on an annual basis. Once again, this third gathering of new songs, released to coincide with his 70th birthday, is a download only release and, again, marries a mix of social and political commentary.

I’ve noted before a similarity with the likes of Jackson C Frank, Phil Ochs, Dylan, Harvey Andrews and Country Joe McDonald, but I should also add here Jake Thakray, most notably so (both in swallowed vocal delivery and content) on the title track opener, a satirical comment on the dumbing down of the nation as a man is found not guilty of ever having an original though in his life.

Patriotism and the way it can be manipulated forms the thrust of the fingerpicked ‘The Patriot’ (“They tell me how liberty comes at a price; That no price is ever too high. When devils are driving the wind to the sails.”) while the briskly strummed ‘The Promised Land’ turns its attention to the influence of focus groups on forming political policy that often reflects their own interests. By way of change of focus, over a circling guitar pattern, ‘Longhope’ pays tribute to the eight man volunteer crew of the Longhope lifeboat who lost their lives in the 1969 disaster during an attempted rescue.

It’s back then to barbed commentary, adopting a sprightly, almost salvationist hymnal style tune for ‘The Thinking Of God’ about those who, from Pastors to Imams take it upon themselves to interpret the divine will of their choice, while ‘A Peace That’s Bad’ is a Country Joe-like strummed reminder that a ‘Peace that’s seen to be unjust fuels conflict and distrust’. Elsewhere, ‘Skeletons Dance’, with its music hall whirlygig melody, addresses political hypocrisy and its tabloid press exposure, ‘Little By Little’ casts an eye on the way increasing surveillance is gradually eroding our freedoms and the gypsy waltzing tragedy of ‘Something Of A Loner’ sounds an all too familiar note about the fate of those we see as social misfits (“Oh, it must be ten years. He was here when we came. He lived in the flats. No, I don’t know his name. He always wore medals. We thought he was weird. And the kids, well, whenever they saw him they jeered.”)

It’s not all so pessimistic. ‘The Trotter Sisters’ is an amusingly wry bluesy tale of the showbiz comeback of sibling contortionists, so famous Madonna plays backup and the ragtime-styled ‘Everything’s Possible’ is a celebration of human ingenuity that namechecks Gutenberg, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming and Tim Berners-Lee, along with the inventors of the wheel and the compass. The optimism and resilience of the human spirit gets a personal note too in the circling melody of ‘Mary Huddleston’, the poignant story of his own great aunt who sailed from Liverpool on a way one trip to carve a new life in the Cape, braving all adversity to raise a farm and family.

Fittingly then, he closes on an upbeat note with the energetically strummed ‘Hope’, a reminder that, despite all the connivances of the body politic and of those of power and privilege that “hope will be the last to die.” Not original thoughts perhaps, but perceptive and well honed nonetheless.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘Longhope’ – probably an unofficial video:

A message from Beau

Beau - An Original Thought

The big news is that today, (9th May)  Cherry Red are celebrating my 70th birthday with a brand new Beau album, An Original Thought.

Written in just fourteen days (my most intense writing phase ever, even going back to my twenties!), An Original Thought contains songs about patriotism, invention, modern-day surveillance, showbiz comebacks and a lifeboat disaster. And that’s just for starters!

The album cover features my trusty 1967 Harmony twelve-string, photographed in 2014 by Rocker Rosehip.

If you would like to download a copy of the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘The Patriot’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dust on the Nettles: A Journey Through the British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72 (Grapefruit/Cherry Red CRSEGBOX030)

Dust on the NettlesIt was a time not only of music’s charting big names but also exploration by the Incredible String Band, Dr. Strangely Strange, developing folk rock (Pentangle; Fairport Convention; Steeleye Span), folk boomers pushing boundaries (Mick Softley; John Renbourn to whom the box is dedicated with Clive Palmer), and also a vibrant scene of counterculture comics, Alice in Wonderland on the Beeb in experimental form, revived novels by Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Tolkien, Krishna Consciousness, New Age, and Jesus Movements (one of which is here). David Wells’ myth-dispelling notes tells us that acid-folk was applied in the late ’60s, not retrospectively, as a quieter parallel to acid-rock. Martin Carthy called it “pagan” at the time.

Here, from 1967-72, are not only the famous, plus those of cult status, but also the obscure pressed in a few dozen copies to avoid VAT, unreleased demos, rare singles and soundtrack samples (Magnet, aka Hocket or Lodestone, for The Wicker Man; a very early Vashti Bunyan from Swinging London). It is a cornucopia, an extensive botanical garden of species and one-off hybrids, but why the absence of Dr. Strangely Strange, Forest, Third Ear Band, Blondel, Sweeney’s Men, Strawbs, Dulcimer, Dawnwind, ‘Mac’ Macleod…Why ‘British underground’ without leading Irish or Welsh for what was a cosmopolitan scene? Were Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Joan Armatrading ever underground pray tell? The title seems a bit like a punt into the wrong neighbours’ garden, the link to the sub-title eludes me, but such points are as titchy as a gnat’s boil regarding the overall musical delight. Nowadays box-sets are as much due to label ownership as personal taste or accuracy, hence contents as elastic as an elastic band used to be. Continue reading VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dust on the Nettles: A Journey Through the British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72 (Grapefruit/Cherry Red CRSEGBOX030)

BEAU – Shoeless in the Desert (Cherry Red BEAUSITD1)

BeauCDThe second album of new material from Trevor Midgley since he resurfaced last year with Fly The Bluebird and the subsequent reissue of his 1971 Creation album, this too is a download only release and again features just Beau (who, should I need to remind you, launched John Peel’s Dandelion label; back in 1969) and his 12-string acoustic guitar. As with all his work, it’s very much troubadour folk, rooted in the same 70s soil as the early works of Roy Harper, Dylan, Harvey Andrews (whom his voice sometimes recalls) and Country Joe McDonald, his songs offering political observation and commentary as well as more personal concerns.

Immigration and the response to it is the theme of the powerful album opener ‘Storm in The Eye of God’ while, on a vaguely connected note, ‘America For Sale’ (which has a definite air of Jake Thackray) addresses the notion of both selling your heritage and consumer capitalism and ‘The Oyster & The Pearl’ (from whence comes the album title) is a fable about unequal relationships, exploitation, who does the heavy lifting and who gets the rewards.

Religion looms large too, ‘Guardians of Their Own Truth’ speaking of the deep-rooted self-interest of those who preach it, album closer ‘The Atheist Hymn’ is about the right not to believe while, taking a more storytelling bent, ‘The Deacon’s Revenge’ is a good old Gothic yarn.

Elsewhere, subjects embrace faltering relationships (‘Theatre Song’), the instinct to move on (‘Behind The Eye of the Mind’), the nature and purpose of dreams (a delicate fingerpicked ‘This Is Your Dream’), taking credit for just being lucky (the folk-country strum Uncle Joe) and, based on the theme from Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’, ‘The Tree Of Life’ is a meditation on the frightening image of kids with guns and a hope for a brighter tomorrow. ‘Don’t Let Them Take You Away’ is even an ode to duodenal ulcers, hypertension and heart attacks, and a reminder to slow down and take it easy. Some forty-six years after his debut, although he’s never dropped out of making music, Beau remains very much a cult figure and it’s highly unlikely things are going to much change. Even so, it’s really about time you got his sand between your toes.
Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

It’s almost impossible to find current videos of Beau but here’s his 1969 recording, ‘1917 Revolution’:

BEAU – Fly The Bluebird (Cherry Red)

beauAnyone with an interest in the British music scene of the late 60s may remember Beau, the first artist to release a record on John Peel’s Dandelion label. Issued in July 1969,  ‘1917 Revolution’, a song about the Russian uprising, echoed the English protest folk also being produced by the likes of Al Stewart and Roy Harper.

No 1 in the Lebanon, it’s success back home was considerably less spectacular but generated sufficient interest to spawn two albums, the eponymous debut and 1971’s Creation. A third was planned for 1972, albeit to be released under the name of John Trevor (his real name being Trevor Midgley) although the only recording that saw light of day was ‘Sky Dance’,  part of the label’s swansong compilation, There Is Some Fun Going Forward.

Beau may have been subsequently consigned to the land of the musical forgotten, but he’s remained active, albeit mostly as a songwriter, interest being rekindled with reissues of the two albums in expanded formats and, in 2009, the release of Edge Of The Dark featuring five recordings from the scrapped third album alongside other previously unreleased tracks. This in turn was followed by Fables & Facades, a Cherry Red collection of full band versions of songs recorded between 1978 and 2000, 2011’s re-recordings of previously unissued material, The Way It Was and, last year, Twelve Strings To The Beau, featuring numbers recorded with Jim Milne and Steve Clayton from Tractor between 1975-1985.

He returns now with an all new download only collection, although, some subject matter aside, it sounds as though it could easily have been dusted down from the early 70s vaults. You may say it sounds dated, which, in the sense of being of a particular era, it does, but I think timeless might be a better description.
Continue reading BEAU – Fly The Bluebird (Cherry Red)