PETER FERGUS McCLELLAND – The Turn Of The Tide (Hobgoblin HOBCD1017)

The Turn Of The TidePete McClelland, if I may be so familiar to address him thus, has had a busy year. This is his second solo album of 2017 to sit alongside his contributions to Hobgoblin’s 40th anniversary collection. The Turn Of The Tide began as a stage show performed at Cornwall Folk Festival. It includes several well-known songs with singable choruses and went down well as you’d expect. Now it’s recorded with support from Pete’s friends and colleagues.

The album is divided into four sections but it wouldn’t matter if it were otherwise – I think it was a good excuse to get ‘Johnny Sands’ into the set. He begins with one of my favourite songs, ‘The Island Of  St Helena’, which isn’t heard anywhere near enough these days and follows that with another song from Nic Jones’ catalogue, ‘The Isle Of France’. Pete has a rich voice and isn’t afraid of showing off his impressive range which can be disconcerting when he takes a familiar tune off for a wander. His approach may be described as robust and his supporters follow his lead. That’s fine for a song like ‘Top Alex’ – about the burning of Southend pier – but sometimes it lacks a touch of subtlety.

The second section, Fishing, begins with Stan Rogers’ ‘Make And Break Harbour’ followed by Lennie Gallant’s ‘Peter’s Dream’. This is an inspired pairing mirroring the stoicism and resignation of Rogers’ fisherman with the anger of Gallant’s who finally shoots his boat full of holes. Choruses come with ‘The Herring’s Head’ and Bob Roberts’ ‘Candlelight Fisherman’ and the best song of the Rivers section is undoubtedly the country road-trip of ‘The Appalachian Way’

The album closes with Archie Fisher’s ‘Men Of Worth’. It’s not his best-known song but it wraps the project up rather neatly, exhorting both farmers and fishermen to work on the oil-rigs. It was also considered too controversial for the BBC back in the 1970s. You wouldn’t believe it.

The Turn Of The Tide has a nicely old-fashioned feel – mostly traditional with a thematic link that isn’t overemphasised. On one hand it’s an easy listen and on the other there are songs to make you think about the way the world is. I like it.

Dai Jeffries

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Pete McClelland announces a new maritime themed album

Pete McClelland

The idea for The Turn Of The Tide came out of a concert performance supporting Martin Simpson at Cornwall Folk Festival in 2016. For this gig, Pete put together a set of songs from his repertoire in varying styles about rivers, the sea and the coast. It all went down well, so he decided to record it and see how it came out.

There are three of Pete’s songs here and one each by Lennie Gallant, Stan Rogers and Archie Fisher as well as six traditional songs that Pete has sung over the years and which he learned from some of his favourite folk singers.

The album kicks off with banishment and two covers of Nic Jones’ early performances, ‘The Island Of St Helena’ and ‘The Isle Of France’, this song harking back to Pete’s days at the Southend Railway Hotel Folk Club when Nic was performing these two songs in his set.  The song appeared in a broadsheet shortly after the Napoleonic wars. ‘The Isle Of France’ was collected in West Sussex where Pete now lives.

Part two concerns fishing and the loss of it. First are songs from two great Canadian writers. Stan Rogers’ ‘Make And Break Harbor’ and Lennie Gallant’s ‘Peter’s Dream’.

These more serious songs are followed by a couple of light hearted ditties. ‘The Herring’s Head’, a cumulative song heard a long time ago and ‘The Candlelight Fisherman’ from the singing of John Coppins. As a child Pete often sat on the shore at Shoeburyness watching those Thames barges, with their characteristic rigging, passing the Mulberry Harbour.

Part Three is all about Rivers and Lovers: ‘The Willow Tree’ is one of Pete’s own songs; ‘Johnny Sands’ is a rather unpleasant little song which Pete heard from Martin Carthy when at Kingston Polytechnic in the 70s. ‘Just As The Tide Was Flowing’ is from another of Pete’s big influences, Tony Rose and was Pete’s first public performance many years ago. ‘The Appalachian Way’ is another of Pete’s songs written after visiting storyteller Jerry Harmon at his house in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina

The album ends with coastal metalwork: piers and oil rigs. Pete brings back his connection with Southend on Sea to write ‘Top Alex ‘about a burning pier pavilion. Album close is ‘Men Of Worth’, a song full of great imagery from another favourite singer, the great Archie Fisher.

This superb collection of songs is complemented by informative sleeves notes and dramatic imagery.

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