Nick Burbridge is one of music’s renaissance men: poet, singer, songwriter, novelist and playwright; generally held to be one of the finest songwriters that the world, for the most part, hasn’t heard of yet. Multi-instrumentalist Tim Cotterell also works alongside Nick in McDermott’s Two Hours and plays all the melody parts except for Philippe Barnes’ flute.
Before you start to listen you need to know that a tanka is classical form in Japanese poetry, thirty-one syllables long. Nick intersperses Resolved with six sung tanka, topping or tailing certain of the songs. You also need to understand that this is not easy listening. It’s not a night out with McDermott’s. Having listened to it once I had to put it to one side and clear my head – that’s not a criticism, it’s just that you don’t come across many songs that include words like quincunx.
These are powerful, serious songs and with Nick being an associate of the Levellers, politics are never too far away. Even ‘Another Song’, the first major track which is ostensibly about love, separation and death has a dig about “tyrants and corrupt laws”. ‘Song Of A Pacifist’ and ‘Song Of A Partisan’ are the yin and yang of the struggle. The former highlights Nick’s Irish background with its passing reference to Bloody Sunday while the latter betrays something that we’re all feeling – if only there was a gun in the attic.
‘Song Of A Seeker’ with its traditional feel strikes me as an modernised metaphor based on ‘Bonny Black Hare’ just as the original was in its own way while the final ‘Song Of A Celebrant’ is perhaps the most complex song here. Again metaphorical, it feels like a commentary on the dreadful year that has been 2016 and I only hope that I’m not reading too much into it. Even the superficially optimistic tracks like ‘Song Of A Seafarer’ and ‘Song Of An Old Quaker’ hide a streak of bitterness and Nick doesn’t always sing the words he writes, if you get my drift. Live, I suspect, you’ll get the full force of his writing.
Resolved is a superb set of songs but not one to be entered into lightly.
Artist’s website: http://www.burbridgearts.org/
Listen to ‘Another Song’: