BEAU – Rattle The Asylum Bars (Cherry Red BEAURTAB1)

Rattle The Asylum BarsReleased almost forty-nine years to the day since his first-ever John Peel recording sessions, approaching 72, his latest release and his tenth studio album, Rattle The Asylum Bars, finds Christopher John Trevor Midgley at his politically sharpest on a collection of thirteen songs that underline why he’s been referred to as England’s answer to Phil Ochs.

Armed with just his trusty 12-string Harmony guitar, the album’s topics range from Prohibition and lottery winners to Charlie Hebdo, opening with ‘Road To Valhalla’, a fierce strummed meditation on the ascent of mankind from its early origins that touches on both the idea of shared community through song and the tendency to shun outsiders for “fear of being displaced.”

With its circling fingerpicked chords and echoes of John Prine, ‘The Rose’ concerns a more specific subject, the death of young student Rachel Whitear in 2000 from a drugs overdose, but here told from the perspective of a medic attending yet another such incident of “the barbed wire wrapped around the rose.” Inspired by hearing the late Ian Paisley holding forth in the Houses of Parliament, not to mention the sanctimoniousness of the likes of Tony Blair and George Bush, ‘Moral Clarity’ sets a driving Bo Diddley riff to a playful but pointed swipe at those so blindly convinced of their own rectitude they refuse to countenance any other views.

Taking the pace down to a fairground folksy waltz, ‘People Like Me’ continues along much the same lines, referencing climate change, freedom of speech and such issues with a refrain about how the ‘right-thinking people’ (and the emphasis is on the political right, I suspect) are those who agree with you. Probably not one for Daily Mail subscribers.

The focus shifts to America for ‘The Angry Preacher’, a fingerpicked song about how the country’s noted philanthropists tend to be admired but rarely loved, based around a funeral and a wake and the cynical suspicion that such charity must hide some inner rot. We remain Stateside, slipping back several decades almost a century for ‘Bugs Moran’, another urgently delivered bluesy melody line and a delivery evocative of Jake Thackray that returns to the time of Prohibition for a narrative about the titular mobster, a rival to Al Capone who, having decided to sleep in (though the song has him watching from a coffee house), escaped being shot in the infamous St Valentine’s Day massacre.

It’s back to politics for the stately circular melody of ‘The Apathy Party’, a title that pretty much makes any comment on its lyrical content redundant, and from here to ‘The Hedgerows of England’, a shanty-like Swiftian commentary on how the unexpected acquisition of wealth via the lottery can shift political allegiance, the song couched in a member of the Establishment offering some advice on “oppressing the masses for profit and sport” to a new Country Member arrivee to the ranks.

One of the longer tracks, ‘The Hawk’ is another waltzer, an allegorical message to impetuous youth to fly responsibly on how not to embark on things you cannot conclude in the tale of a young bird learning to spread its wings, getting into difficulties and reminded that “take-off is optional, and landing is not.”

By way of departure from the other numbers, ‘The Ghost Train’ is a straightforward storysong about an old puppeteer and a bride and the forces of evil being abroad, set on All Hallows Eve. It’s back then to more serious concerns for the fingerpicked near seven-minute ‘The Only Soldier To Turn Up For The War’, a meditation on the possible reasons behind the Islamic radicalisation in prison of a young and troubled teenage Muslim girl, the victim of a dysfunctional family, drugs and abuse, turned into a suicide bomber. A song that seeks for explanations rather than simple condemnations, it’s a powerful, thought-provoking piece of work.

So too, in a different way is ‘Klara’, which, as historians may know, was the name of Adolf Hitler’s mother, the song referring to the premonition she’d had prior to his birth of the horrors he would bring and the claims that shed wanted to terminate the pregnancy. As such, the song extends beyond historical record to address the whole Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate and the division been moral absolutists and polemicists regarding balancing he life of one against the lives of the many.

Inspired by both the tragedy and the heroic defiance of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it ends with the title track, a rhythmically choppy number set to a tune that echoes Tim Hardin’s ‘Black Sheep Boy’, about the right to freedom of the press to poke fun at sacred cows and how “we cannot in the world exempt Anything from out contempt. To do would betray…this liberty we value most.”

Beau may not have the contemporary cachet of a Billy Bragg or a Frank Turner, but his voice for change and awareness is as strong as any of them.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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: www.beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk

Beau doesn’t do anything so conventional as releasing a video to go with his new album but here’s a song you probably won’t have heard – ‘The Peacemaker’:

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 an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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://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.

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 order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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:

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 order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Little has changed over the years, his recordings still follow the one man and a 12 string guitar format, he still writes literate, caustic, sharply observed and politically resonant lyrics and he still conjures comparisons to such late 60s/early 70s contemporaries as Jackson C Frank,  Phil Ochs, Dylan and, most strikingly, Harvey Andrews and  Country Joe McDonald.

Kicking off with the folk-blues title track’s  coming storm warning and the lightly waltzing old guard’s reflections of ‘Death Of The Old Year’, political commentary protest also informs ‘Lenin’ (“where was the communism, please, in your community?”), the bluesy waltzing ‘Rooks & Ravens’ (Guantanamo Bay and its consequences), ‘Soldiers Of Fortune’ (the mercenaries of economics), ‘So Far Away’ (the shifting face of military technology), ‘Singapore’ (the self-generating decline of the British Empire) and ‘The Hum Of The Cable’ which echoes Thomas Jefferson’s  message about how it only needs good men to do nothing for evil to thrive.

Elsewhere, ‘That Silver Door’ addresses the nature of television news and those that report it, while the sleeve notes describe the sardonic and bitingly amusing ‘A Curious Man’ as one “for pub philosophers, barrack-room lawyers and dinner-party bores everywhere” and the self-interest themed ‘All The Way Down The Line’ (the singalong chorus of which shares DNA with ‘Fog On The Tyne’) is ‘a slap across the unacceptable face….’

Politics strikingly inform the personal too in the anger that burns through ‘When Gabriel Turns’, a powerful, hard-hitting portrait of the cruelty of dementia, so after all this bleakness it’s a relief to find the album closing on the slightly more hopeful notes of the chords-cascading ‘Saving Grace’’s possibility of redemption and, conjuring enduring optimism, ‘Wings’, even if its tumbling chorus refrain is melodically melody very reminiscent of Tom Russell’s ‘Blue Wing’. He may not have the critical and commercial cachet of Jake Bugg, but I know who I’d rate as the better troubadour.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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 website – www.trevormidgley.com

Trevor Midgley (a.k.a. Beau) – The Way It Was

On Monday 14th March to celebrate forty years since the 1971 release of  Trevor Midgleys (a.k.a. Beau) psych/folk “Creation” LP on John Peel’s Dandelion label, Cherry Red Records issued “The Way It Was”, a download-only album consisting of fifteen brand new recordings.  “The Way It Was” (Cherry Red BEAU2011) is available from iTunes, Amazon, and all major download sites worldwide and is Trevor Midgleys first purpose-recorded release since “Creation”. It’s a true back-to-basics set; straight voice and twelve-string – not an overdub in sight!

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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 link: http://www.trevormidgley.com/TheWayItWas.html