MARRY WATERSON & DAVID A. JAYCOCK – Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love (One Little Indian Records TPLP1419CDP)

Death Had Quicker Wings Than LoveMarry Waterson and David A. Jaycock release their second album as a duo, Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love, on the 29th of September 2017. Sadly, the promotional copy of the CD I received didn’t include information on who else played what, but I understand from Marry’s web site that contributors include singer/songwriter Kathryn Williams, Romeo Stodart (guitar on ‘Out Of Their Hearts’), violinist Emma Smith, and John Parish (percussion on ‘Small Ways And Slowly’). (Clearly there are other instrumental contributions, including piano, bass and electric guitar.) The record was exquisitely produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead.

  1. Unusually, ‘The Vain Jackdaw’, reinterpreting one of Aesop’s fables, starts with a simple but eerily archaic instrumental section and is followed by a purely unaccompanied vocal. The moral of the fable is “Hope not to succeed in borrowed plumes“, or as Marry’s song puts it “Fine feathers don’t make fine birds“: however, Marry’s singing of a subtly ambitious melody is successful on every level. If ‘unaccompanied’ suggests to you a simplistic rendering, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
  2. ‘Lost (adjective)’ explores the feelings of darkness and loss that permeate the entire album. It has a more ‘modern’ feel to the instrumentation with its underlying guitar arpeggios.
  3. ‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ takes its inspiration from a maiden’s crown in St Stephen’s Old Church, Robin Hood’s Bay. A maiden’s garland or crown was traditionally displayed in a church as a funeral memento of females (usually) who died virgins. The title is said to derive from the words inscribed on the grave of Mary Woodson, who died on the way to her wedding in 1785. The song includes vocal and violin contributions from Kathryn Williams and Emma Smith.
  4. Talking about ‘Out Of Their Hearts’, Marry describes how “Once we had that [Romeo Stodart’s guitar part], David dampened down the guitar strings with crocodile clips which creates a fantastic atmosphere and then added a bass that wandered through the song like footsteps.” And very effective it is too.
  5. ‘Gunshot Lips’ has as harsh a lyric as you’d expect from the title, and a guitar arrangement that leans to the classical, augmented by
  6. ‘New Love Song’ includes harmony vocals (presumably from David?) around a simple lyric set off by atmospheric instrumental work.
  7. I had some difficulty in following the lyrics of ‘Three Of Them’ – I suppose it’s age thing – but it didn’t impair my enjoyment of the song. Still, I wish people who write lyrics this good would actually make them available with the CD.
  8. ‘On The Second Tide’ has a free-ranging modal melody that reminds me a little of Irish balladry tinged with singing techniques well to the East of these islands: I could almost imagine Sheila Chandra singing this, if only she was still able to perform.
  9. ‘Forgive Me’ is described as a ‘meditation upon the sadness of seeing your children leave home’: yep, been there, and the song certainly has resonance. It is, I suppose, closer than most of songs here to what you expect to hear from the singer-songwriter end of the folk spectrum.
  10. The arrangement of ‘Small Ways And Slowly’ even borders on folk-rock with its backing vocals and build-up towards electric guitar. Much as I love the preceding tracks, it will be interesting to see if Marry and David come up with more material in this idiom in the future.

I’ve seen this described as a ‘folk record’ and as ‘in an authentic folk style’. I can see where those descriptions come from, but I’m not sure they’re strictly accurate, any more than they are with reference to Lal and Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus, also cited in PR materials. (This is far from being a criticism – I’m no folk purist!) Though the songs include themes and tropes that echo the tradition, they have a poetic sensibility that could never be described as primitive or rough-hewn. The melodies often have a sinuous complexity that wouldn’t be out of place in an art song performance. The arrangements avoid flash and thunder, but they’re deceptively accomplished and always effective, with instrumentation that goes beyond the boundaries of the traditional acoustic session. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine an album like this being made by anyone in whom awareness and knowledge of the English tradition wasn’t deeply ingrained.

I guess you wouldn’t expect someone with the surname Waterson to release an unsatisfactory CD, but this is so much more than satisfactory. Marry’s singing has the quality you expect of the best revival singers: accomplished without sounding ‘over-trained’. David A. Jaycock not only provides equally accomplished (and unquestionably sympathetic) guitar accompaniment, but clearly plays a vital role in the transition of each song into arrangements that bring out in the best in the lyric, melody and performance. This may not be the most cheerful set of songs I’ve heard this year – well, cheerfulness in a song is overrated, in my opinion – but it’s certainly one of the very best.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock 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.

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Artist’s website: marrywaterson.com

‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ – official video:

MIKE BROOKFIELD – Brookfield (Golden Rule Records GRCD003)

BrookfieldMike Brookfield has followed up his debut album Love Breaks The Fall with a blues-soaked CD simply and eponymously titled Brookfield, due for release on September 22nd. Mike’s own web site describes the CD as “11 tracks of burnin’ blues rock“, which is not a bad description: he clearly knows one end of a Strat (or Les Paul!) from the other (and evidently is not a bad bass player, either). This self-produced album features Mike on all guitars and vocals, and Andrew Lavery on drums and percussion. Mike wrote all the music, while journalist and Horslips drummer/lyricist Eamon Carr supplied the words. In fact, the lyrics are very good indeed.

  1. ‘A Message For Willy Johnson’ is, you may not be surprised to know, mostly about Blind Willy Johnson, and includes allusions in the playout to ‘Keep your lamp trimmed and burning’, a gospel/blues tune much associated with Johnson, “the blind man who spread the light.” However, don’t expect a country blues homage: it’s very much a blues/rock track which Mike describes as having elements of Clapton. I guess I can hear that both in the lead and in the changes. In any case it’s a good song, well played.
  2. The title of ‘Beaten To Death By The Blues’ may make you think momentarily of Leonard Cohen, but this is far removed from ‘Take This Waltz’. It’s an up-tempo tribute to rock and roll casualties. Excellent lead guitar, backed up by tasteful slide.
  3. With its Hendrix-y wah-wah and double-tracked lead, there’s an early 70s feel to ‘Zombie Craze’ – not a criticism in my book, though.
  4. ‘Suitcase Blues’ takes the tempo down for a sad story song around more 70s-y riffing. While I don’t hear any acoustic guitar on this album, there is some tasteful arpeggiated chording here and elsewhere that provides some breathing space between the harder rock arrangements.
  5. ‘Don’t Close The Gates’ has an optimistic lyric set to a blues-y tune. Nice slide, not flashy but entirely appropriate as a counterweight to the heavy-duty lead break.
  6. By contrast, the pessimistic ‘Living In A Better World’ begins with some slow, atmospheric guitar augmented by some stomp box manipulation, moving into a rockier, wah-wah driven verse.
  7. Mike’s setting of Eamon’s words on ‘Letter From The Devil’ seems to have synthesized influences from Son House (‘Death Letter Blues’) to Doyle Bramhall II and his 90s work with Arc Angels with a vocal that reminded me slightly of Paul Rodgers. The result is very listenable.
  8. ‘Hi Class Shoes’ has a structure that reminded me slightly of Willie Dixon (and nothing wrong with that…): it has a typically rock theme of looking out for ladies with high class shoes. It reminded me a little of a heavier version of John Mayall’s ‘Cancelling Out’.
  9. ‘Gun Crime’ is another story song with a lot of pace and wah-wah.
  10. ‘This Restless Heart’, unusually for this CD, has double-tracked vocals, and works well.
  11. ‘Written In Chains’ begins with some ear-catching guitar harmonics and an underlying message building to a satisfyingly heavy guitar playout. An entirely suitable ending to the album.

Mike Brookfield is a man who wears his influences on his sleeve (and his fretboard), as you: there are elements here that may remind you of Doyle Bramhall II, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, though he clearly knows his way round previous generations of blues players. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a very competent singer: maybe not as instantly recognizable as a Clapton or Plant (not many people are), but he carries a rock vocal well.

The CD gets a live launch a few days at Whelans in Dublin on Tuesday 26th September. I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to get to that: I suspect that yer man will be kicking some serious butt onstage… As a CD, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it riffs very competently on a timeless idiom: if you like blues-y rock, you’ll certainly find much to enjoy here.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MIKE BROOKFIELD 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.

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Artist’s website: www.mikebrookfield.com

Mike Brookfield’s introduction his new album:

MEGAN HENWOOD – River (Dharma Records DHARMACD30)

RiverThe third album by singer-songwriter Megan Henwood, River, is due for release on 27th October 2017. And it demonstrates the evolving talent and maturity of a singer who had already made considerable impression in 2009, when she and her brother Joe won Radio 2’s Young Folk Award, and a writer whose storytelling is supported by fine melodies and solid musicianship. This doesn’t strike me as a particularly folky album (which isn’t a criticism), however.

The songs are all written by Megan, who also plays acoustic and electric guitars here, while cellist Matthew Forbes and bassist Pete Thomas, long associated with her work, are once more strongly featured on this album. The early promotional copy I have doesn’t include details of these or other personnel, though the press release tells me that the CD was produced by Tom Excell, and the unexpected but very effective trumpet on ‘Fresh Water’ is by Jonny Enser. There’s no lyric sheet at this point, either, which always strikes me as being a shame when the words are as good as this. It also means that when I cite lyrics in this review, I may be inaccurate, so I apologise in advance for any accidental mondegreens, but her wordsmithing is too good not to try to quote.

Here’s a track-by-track listing:

  1. ‘Join The Dots’ uses a classic ballad structure, moving between a gentle verse to a dramatic chorus that reminded me a little too much melodically of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ (sorry!).
  2. ‘Fresh Water’ lies a little closer to a fuzzy line between alt-folk and modern country with its acoustic fingerpicking. A very pretty love story –”I’ve got a thirsty heart and your love is like fresh water … to me” – with some perfectly judged double-tracking on the chorus.
  3. Megan’s song about Oxford, ‘The Dolly’, has the barest touch of Joni Mitchell-ish head register in the first verse, but also makes good use of her distinctive lower register. Great lyric, and the chorus has a nice bass line running in parallel to the vocal.
  4. The lyrics to ‘Seventh’ are a little more diffuse: the story is more difficult to follow, but the impact of the song is undeniable. Some nice touches of organ, too. As in one or two other places, the percussion seems a little too far forward here and there, though the suggestion of a ticking clock – I guess that’s a wood block – does suit the theme of the song. And perhaps it’s just an artefact of my elderly stereo.
  5. The wordless middle section to ‘Apples’ is a little overextended for my taste, but I like the combination of lyric and melody very much.
  6. ‘House On The Hill’ is a song about the scariness of romantic involvement – “I’m not afraid of the dark/but I’m afraid of you leaving“. The combination of the underlying electric guitar and strings is particularly atmospheric.
  7. The multi-tracking on parts of ‘Rainbows’ is a little denser, almost reminiscent in places of the Carpenters.
  8. ‘Peace Be The Alien’ includes some of my favourite lines: “From my follicles/down to my fingertips” and “Turn it down/headful of decibels“. Yes, “life’s too loud” but this song is definitely worth turning up the volume a bit.
  9. ‘Oh Brother’ explores the complexities of a sibling relationship. Autobiographical, perhaps, if it matters. A fine song, anyway.
  10. ‘Used To Be So Kind’ seems to pick up the theme of unkindness and being the firstborn child from the previous song. Some nice, slightly jazzy chord changes later in the song.
  11. ‘The Craftsman’ is probably my favourite Henwood song at the moment, and perhaps the folkiest. Just voice and acoustic guitar. Lovely.
  12. ‘L’Appel Du Vide’ is a French expression meaning “the call of the void”, similar to what Poe called ‘The Imp of the Perverse’: the sudden urge to do something harmful to oneself or to others. The song begins with an acapella section building into close harmonies, then develops the theme with some slightly eerie instrumental backing to match the disquieting lyric – “L’Appel du Vide I believe you’ve been haunting me/gather up all of my sins/siren won’t leave, she just sits here and sings to me/when will the finish begin?” Its understated drama makes for an unforgettable end to the album.

I tend to feel uneasy when I invoke the names of other artists in a review: all I’ll say on this occasion is that while Megan Henwood doesn’t sound too much like Mary Chapin Carpenter or Janis Ian – for a start, there’s something very English (in a very non-chauvinist way) about her use of language – but if you like the work of either of those artists (or maybe of Stevie Nicks), I’m pretty sure you’ll like Megan’s. It’s lyrically rich storytelling, melodically varied, imaginatively scored and sung with an unassuming, unforced range and fluidity. It’s certainly an album I’ll be listening to again, and I’ll be taking a look at her earlier recordings. Does that make me officially a fan?

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MEGAN HENWOOD – River 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.meganhenwood.com

‘The Dolly’ live:

CORY FLYNN – A Boy Named Hunger (Long Way Home Music LWHM 003)

A Boy Named HungerCory Flynn, from Brighton, is just 16 years old, but has been performing both as a soloist and in bands for nearly six years. And on the 15th September 2017, his first studio album, A Boy Named Hunger, will be released. His web site tells us that his style is heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, and another source is quoted as claiming that he “Writes like Dylan, sings like Cash, looks like Beckham“.

I can’t really hear Cash in his vocals – in fact, at times he sounds a bit like Phil Ochs but with less vibrato. If you need a 21st century reference point, I guess you might cite Jake Bugg: not that you’d mistake one for the other, but both have distinctive vocal deliveries that focus on the internal rhythms of the song rather than on ‘fine’ singing. However, the influence of Dylan (and perhaps others of the same 60s ilk) is certainly noticeable: not only in much of his songwriting, but also in his rhythmic flatpicking and, at times, his vocal delivery. However, it would be simplistic to see him as (to quote ‘Raiders of the Sun’) “a copy of a copy of a copy“. While his lyrics sometimes have a pile-up of somewhat surreal imagery reminiscent of late 60s Dylan, they have a satiric bite of their own that bodes well for his future work. It’s a pity there isn’t a lyric sheet included.

I generally try to avoid leaning too hard on comparing one artist to another in a review, but this is a ‘young’ collection of songs from a young artist who is still finding his own voice, and it’s not really possible to avoid mentioning his borrowings from earlier music. Nevertheless, there is much here to like.

The instrumentation here is minimal: except for ‘Raiders Of The Sun’, where he plays piano, there’s just Cory’s acoustic guitar, augmented on ‘Night At The Opera’ by Chris Clarke on bass.

  1. ‘The Firing Squad’ is the most obvious example of a performer who wears his influences on his sleeve: the structure of the song is a little too close to ‘It’s All Right Ma’ for comfort, though the lyric is not so remorselessly depressive: indeed, the last line of the first verse had me laughing out loud, though I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a comic song.
  2. The guitar and vocals of ‘The Hobbyist’ remind me a little of Alan Hull/Lindisfarne. The guitar intro has an unexpected delicacy, morphing into a driving accompaniment. Some sparing double-tracking on the vocals (the only instance of double-tracking on the CD, that I noticed) gives the chorus added punch.
  3. ‘Open The Gates’ has another Dylanesque intro: for a second I thought I was going to hear ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’, though the body of the song goes in quite a different direction. On the other hand, since Dylan’s tune and accompaniment themselves borrow from Appalachian tradition, why not? The vocal delivery is also Dylan-ish, though plenty of singers have successfully gone the same route.
  4. ‘Raiders Of The Sun’, from which the album title is taken, substitutes piano for guitar. Despite the occasional lapse into Dylanesque vocal delivery, the song benefits from less mannered vocals. While there’s a harshness to his voice that will probably not be to anyone’s taste, it does show a range and a lower register I didn’t expect from the previous tracks. I’m getting rather fond of the couplet “To end her suffering/she must suffer her ending…
  5. The guitar and, in places, the vocal on ‘Gospel of Khan’ are kind of reminiscent of Phil Ochs, but the wordplay seems very much Cory’s own. Very interesting.
  6. ‘Clean Dirt’ has a very slightly flamenco feel to the guitar, though the vocal delivery is somewhere between Dylan and Al Stewart, or maybe a rougher-hewn Jeff Buckley. A little too rough-hewn for my taste, but the lyric is interesting. Well, all his lyrics are interesting.
  7. The lyrics to ‘A Night At The Opera’ comprise a story that would not have felt out of place on Highway 61 Revisited.
  8. ‘Rachael’ is a long (nearly 11 minutes) story song/allegory. Against the odds, it held my attention all the way through.
  9. ‘Foreign Storm’ harks back to the more straightforward social messages of early Dylan or Phil Ochs, with a very apposite message for those who think that saying how awful things are is the same as being socially responsible. It just about avoids being one of the diluted messages about ‘plastic people’ subsequently associated with the ‘pop protest’ songs of the late 60s. It’s also being promoted as a single.

My first reaction to this album, when I checked out the videos on Cory’s web site, was ‘raw but interesting’. Having lived with the album itself for a few days, I find it a little easier to see past the obvious Dylan influences and perhaps appreciate that he has a wider range of musical and poetic influences and interests to work from, as he finds a voice that is more his own. Even in the songs where the Dylanisms verge on parody – and let’s not forget that even good parody requires a gift for inventive wordplay – there are frequent glimpses of a different viewpoint and intelligence at work. This is a promising beginning to his career in the studio.

David Harley

Artist’s website: coryflynn.co.uk

‘Raiders Of The Sun’ – official video:

KEITH JAMES – Tenderness Claws (Hurdy Gurdy HGA2926)

Tenderness ClawsOn his web site, Keith James describes his career as esoteric and secretive, but he has actually attracted a good deal of respect for his sensitive interpretations of the songs of Nick Drake, John Martyn and Leonard Cohen, and his musical settings of his own poetry and that of well-loved writers like Lorca and Dylan Thomas. His new CD, Tenderness Claws, is almost entirely focused on settings of poetry: it’s the first time I’ve actually heard his work, but it’s finely crafted and played, exquisitely produced (mostly by Branwen Munn) and engineered, and repays close attention.

There can be a degree of implicit tension between the intentions of the poet and the composer when a poem is set to music. Housman took exception to the omission by Vaughan Williams of two of the verses from Is My Team Ploughing? Vaughan Williams responded that ‘the composer has a perfect right artistically to set any portion of a poem he chooses provided he does not actually alter the sense.’ (And made it clear that there were lines in the missing verses that he felt were best forgotten.)

Phil Ochs, though probably mostly remembered nowadays as a ‘protest’ singer, also composed several excellent settings to poems by Poe, Noyes and others. In his liner notes to I Ain’t Marching Any More he offered – if my memory doesn’t fail me – a sort of apology to John Jerome Rooney for his substantial changes to The Men Behind The Guns. (We’ll never know what Rooney would have thought about it).

Keith James clearly believes it appropriate that what Ochs called ‘the discipline of music’ should sometimes modify and shed a different light on an existing poem as it develops into a song. And the success of the settings here entirely justifies that belief.

Here’s the track-by-track summary:

  1. ‘Tyger Tyger’ is Keith’s setting of William Blake’s poem. This is the oldest poem set here, and the form is unequivocally strophic, by contrast with the freeform nature of the work of the ‘beat’ poets also represented here. However, it could be said that Blake’s writing was often a long way ahead of its time, and the arrangement is unequivocally modern, and in no way clashes with the more recent verse here. I particularly like Sarah Vilensky’s vocal work here.
  2. Although the insert and booklet state ‘All music composed by Keith James’, ‘White Room’ is actually the melody that Jack Bruce put to Pete Brown’s words on Cream’s Wheels Of Fire Though I remember the original with nostalgia, Keith’s is really rather a good version, benefiting from significantly more light and shade. The arrangement accentuates the dislocated tone of the lyric better than the in-yer-face wah-wah of Cream’s version – perhaps we’re just too accustomed now to the sound of frequency filtering to remember its impact in the 1960s – and Keith’s understated vocal compares well to Bruce’s.
  3. ‘Andalucia’ is based on a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca with which I’m not familiar. It combines a rhythmic arrangement that recalls flamenco, though the percussion and some of the changes hint at Latin America. Keith’s vocal delivery, though, is all his own.
  4. ‘A Process In The Weather Of The Heart’ slightly rearranges the poem by Dylan Thomas, but still feels through-composed. I don’t know what Dylan would have thought, but it works for me.
  5. ‘Decorated Cardboard Human Shapes’ sets one of Keith’s own poems, combining a wide range of haunting aural effects with a compulsive percussion track.
  6. ‘Daydreams For Ginsberg’ is set to an abbreviated version of Jack Kerouac’s poem. It works very well.
  7. ‘The Mask’ is based on Lorca’s Danza De La Muerte (Dance of Death). This time the poem, though significantly shortened, is left in Spanish, apart from the couplet that begins and ends this setting. As with ‘Andalucia’, the guitar is steeped in flamenco feel, but Rick Foot’s bowed double bass adds quite a different dimension. Beautiful.
  8. ‘Blue Angel’ sets a poem by Allen Ginsberg to guitar arpeggios that give the setting a slightly folk-y feel.
  9. ‘Lizard On The Wall’ is a guitar-driven setting of Keith’s own slightly surreal words, punctuated by gentle flamenco-tinged clapping. I like it a lot.
  10. ‘A Third Place…’ sets another of Keith’s own poems, hinting at a tragic backstory. In some way I can’t quite define, it makes me think of Brel.

Keith’s voice has a fragility that might not be to everyone’s taste, but is entirely suited to the material here, and I can see (or hear) why it would be suited to the songs of Nick Drake, for instance. But then his settings here of his own poems make for compositions that stand very well on their own, even in the company of the other writers represented here. Highly recommended.

David Harley

Artist’s website: keith-james.com

‘The Mask’ – live on the radio:

OCCIDENTAL GYPSY – 44070 (own label)

44070Occidental Gypsy is a band that combines the ‘Gypsy Swing’ feel of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grapelli with a range of material from other sources, notably the compositions of lead guitarist Brett Lee Feldman. Their CD 44070 (due for release in the UK on July 3rd 2017) includes three songs already associated with Reinhardt and Grappelli, one song by Scottie Kulman, and five compositions by Feldman. The other band members are Eli Bishop (strings, background vocals, and rhythm guitar on ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’); Jeremy Frantz (lead vocals, guitar); Jeff “JPhat” Feldman (bass); and Jon Chapman on percussion. The band is augmented here on some tracks by Evan Veenstra (bass) and Erick Cifuentes (percussion).

  1. ‘Gypsy Blues (She’s Back)’ was written by Scottie Kulman. I can’t altogether like the lyric or the vocal phrasing, but it’s very cleverly arranged, with ear-catching unison playing between guitar and violin in the vocal sections.
  2. The instrumental ‘A Day With Paula May’ was composed by Brett Lee Feldman, but has a very Hot Club feel with the composer in full-on Django mode in places. It features some interesting changes of mood and time signature.
  3. ‘Messalina (Lover Lamb)’ is another composition by Feldman. A very nice melody with changes reminiscent of 50s-60s guitar-oriented cool jazz. It also features some athletic bass soloing and nicely understated percussion (including a sample of Eli Bishop’s record-breaking clapping) over a riffing section. My favourite track.
  4. ‘44070: Song for Vrba’ is yet another Feldman composition. It’s a complex instrumental piece that “celebrates the story of Rudolph Vrba“. After his escape from Auschwitz in 1944, Vrba co-authored a report on the mass murders there that is credited with saving the lives of 200,000 people who would otherwise have been deported (like so many others) from Hungary. The piece has several distinct sections with echoes of Bach, Eastern Europe and even a phrase that reminded me of Dowland’s ‘Melancholy Galliard’, though I think that was probably accidental. An impressive composition and recording.
  5. ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ was composed by Isham Jones (with words by Gus Kahn, though this version is purely instrumental). The song was also recorded by Django Reinhardt with the Quintette du Hot Club de France, and this version is obviously heavily influenced by the Hot Club recordings in its choice of tempo and guitar phrasing.
  6. The next track, ‘Tears’, was actually composed by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, and is a live studio recording. While the guitar is as strongly Django-influenced here as you’d expect, this version is by no means a straight copy, not least in that the violin is far more prominent than on the best-known Hot Club recording, and the track features some nice harmonic interplay between Feldman’s guitar and Bishop’s violin. The track also includes some nicely understated pizzicato.
  7. ‘Tonight’ is another composition by Brett Lee Feldman. A somewhat jokey song with a quasi-blues verse structure and nice interplay between the violin, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. There’s also more of Eli Bishop’s intelligent use of pizzicato.
  8. ‘Children’s March’ is also by Feldman, and described as “an apology to the children harmed during the de-segregationists march that took place in Birmingham, 1963.” That’s Birmingham, Alabama, of course, where firehoses and police dogs are said to have been used against children taking part in the ‘Children’s Crusade’. Tuned percussion at the beginning gives a suggestion of the nursery, moving into a stately duet between the violin and acoustic guitar, which is less Django-esque than elsewhere on the album.
  9. ‘Over The Rainbow’ was composed by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, and was also recorded by Reinhardt and Grappelli. However, this version is more reflective and truer to the song’s movie origins, with a simple guitar and violin arrangement. It is, I guess, hard to take this approach without overdoing the schmaltz, and I can’t altogether like the touches of portamento and harmonics on the violin. There are some good moments here, but for me this is the weakest track on the CD.

If you don’t care for Gypsy Jazz with a strong dash of the Hot Club of France, this may leave you cold, though there’s a lot more to it than pastiche. In fact the use of electric guitar, bass guitar and upfront percussion takes the sound a good way beyond the ‘classic’ Hot Club sound. Certainly I look forward to seeing/hearing where Brett Lee Feldman’s eclectic compositions take them next.

David Harley

Artists’ website: www.occidentalgypsy.com

‘A Day With Paula May’ – live: