WILDWOOD JACK – Liberty Ship (Ramsgate)

Liberty ShipNot to be confused with Wildwood Kin, this is Adam Piggott and Jayne Freeman, a Kent-based husband and wife troubadour twosome whose music, an amalgam of folk, world and Americana and augmented on Liberty Ship by renowned drummer Liam Genockey, draws on their travels. Although they draw on traditional influences, the material is all self-penned, the album getting underway with ‘Ordinary Day’, Freeman adding ukulele and Genockey giving a percussive wash to a song about a woman about a man asking his lover why she’s dressed up so fine, blissfully unaware she’s leaving him.

Set to a simple guitar and uke arrangement, ‘The Captain And Me’ is the first of the nautical-themed numbers, part inspired by a Rembrandt painting depicting a Biblical scene it tells of a ship caught in a storm on the sea of Galilee, though, like the calm captain, there’s a far more allegorical nature to it.

Inspired by the discovery of a collection of rustic automata in the Lost Gypsy Gallery while travelling through the rugged Catlins region of the South Island of New Zealand, they were inspired to write ‘The Lost Gypsy’, a playful number about ticks and tocks and making repairs in life and relationships. Closer to home, the fingerpicked and appropriately breezy ‘Morning Star’ was born in finding a copy of The Cloud Collectors Handbook in a Suffolk bookshop, taking form of a lyric about the life of a snowflake while experiencing a Shropshire winter.

‘Just A Dreamer’ is a soft and breathily sung gentle waltzer that’s pretty much summed up by the title, after which it’s back to the briny for ‘Man Overboard’ which, taking a cue from nautical communication flags, brings Genockey back behind the kit on skittering brushed drums, for a hugely infectious ‘ecological Cajun sea shanty’ that, complete with bass thumbs and handclap snaps, is about the dangers of plundering the ocean, be it for fish, treasure or oil.

There’s two further ship-themed tracks, producer Harvey Summers sitting in on piano and accordion for the swayalong, military beat ‘Unsinkable Sam’, the first person story of the ship’s cat that survived the sinking of the Bismark and went on to join the Royal Navy aboard HMS Cossack and the Ark Royal, both of which also went to the bottom while the cat escaped unscathed. The other, obviously, is the title track, though here the vessel is more metaphorical, sailing on a journey to leave sorrows behind and start life anew, the rootsy melody somewhere between ‘Poncho & Lefty’ and Rick Nelson’s ‘Garden Party’.

By contrast, it’s the country’s inland waterways that serve as inspiration for the reflective song of love and passing years, ‘Montgomery Canal’, which runs through Powys in Eastern Wales and North West Shropshire.

Elsewhere, two real life characters provide the lyrical hub. Etched on filigree picked guitar and ukulele, ‘By The Light Of This Lantern’ recounts the tragic tale of Zuam da Leze, a talented Venetian musician who had a clavisimbalum built at great expense and travelled to England to the court of Henry VIII in the belief it would land him a position at court. Henry, however, was not impressed, dismissing him with just a few coins, da Leze hanging himself that night with his dagger-girdle. A rather more positive note’s struck with ‘Bluegrass Boy’, a circling picked tribute to the legendary Bill Monroe.

Hidden away at the end of the album is their crooning rewrite of the traditional Southern states lullaby ‘Hush Little Baby’ (sometimes known as Mockingbird, as recorded by Inez and Charlie Foxx), replacing the original’s gift with increasingly exotic (and mythical locations), the song poignantly featuring the count in and last two lines by Adam’s father, Gordon, who served as executive producer and passed away just a week after the recording.

They may not be the best known names on the folk circuit, but their Liberty Ship is a watertight vessel that will provide sure passage to all who sail her.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: www.wildwoodjack.com

‘Bluegrass Boy’ – live: