Amy Hopwood hails from the seaside town of Weymouth, in Dorset, so it makes sense that her inspiration would either come from the land or the sea. As her album All At Sea makes abundantly clear this one comes from the sea.
Amy is certainly a folk singer and she has that straightforward style that is the mainstay of clubs and singarounds throughout the country, although she does it very much better than most. Along with Tobias Raven (who also recorded and mixed the album), and Coralie Hopwood on backing vocals the ten songs are very well presented and the voices take the lead. Impressively seven of the songs are her own compositions, two are traditional and the final one is the well loved poem ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield set to music.
The sea has many faces and moods and one of the things I like about this album is how Amy explores these various facets. Opening the album ‘Constant As The Sea’ is a love song about the one left behind on the shore. This one, as with some of the others, has a simple chorus that is going to be picked up very easily by the audience and joined in with.
Sailors have always been suspicious, a topic investigated well in ‘The Call Of The Wind Witch’. This is based, apparently, on a true superstition where wise women would sell knotted ropes to sailors about to set off on a voyage so they can try to control the wind . Untie one knot for a gentle breeze, two knots for strong winds across the sea but never untie the third knot. It’s a folk song, so it isn’t much of a spoiler alert to say that the third knot is eventually untied and they all die.
Just recently a report identified Blackpool as the most deprived area of the country and only a few streets away from the illuminations and arcades are huge social issues. ‘The Seagulls Cried’ is based on a true story of a man who walked into the sea in the depths of winter, when both the sun and crowds have gone leaving only poverty and unemployment behind them. In this case he was rescued by some onlookers although his eventual fate is unknown. It’s a sobering song for those of us only only visit occasionally and imagine how wonderful it must be to live there. Good music makes you think, and this is good music.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. ‘Throwing Stones At The Sea’ looks at that strange compulsion boys and men have of throwing stones. We all do it, but none of us can explain why. Is it an offering or a warning? This song also demonstrates how well Amy matches music to words. These men represent an army of people taking on a bigger power so the accompaniment is a military sounding snare drum. On all the songs the backing is well matched, picking up on the mood of the piece. Also very well done is ‘When The Boat Comes In’, with excellent harmonies and rounds between Amy and Coralie.
It was hard to decide which songs to not cover in this review because they’re all good. As example of local singers doing what they do for the love of performing rather than fame you you’d be hard pushed to find something better. On the strength of this album I hope I can get to see Amy and The Raven, as Amy and Tobias perform, one day in a club or at a festival. In the meantime the album will have to do and I hope plenty of other people decide to join me in listening to it. It can be purchased as a CD from Amy’s website, downloaded through Bandcamp or streamed on Spotify
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‘Constant As The Sea’ – official video: