CORRIE SHELLEY – The Leaf And The Cane (Own Label CSSSMCD002)

The Leaf And The CaneYou know how it is, you spend 30 years busy doing other life stuff away from music, then seemingly effortlessly drop two self-composed albums within the space of a year. Corrie Shelley certainly knows how that goes, since her second album The Leaf And The Cane hit the shops late last year.

Much like her debut, Painted Memories, this latest work skips nimbly among the folk/rock borderlands. Although only the final two tracks – both collaborative compositions and performances – definitively stray into rockier territory. Both ‘Storm Coming’ and ‘Pale Maiden II’ break with the more intimate mood of the preceding songs whilst showing Shelley perfectly at home in a larger band setting. ‘Pale Maiden II’, for instance, commemorates those who fought in the Falklands War, as seen from the viewpoint of the islands’ national flower.

These tracks aside, the instrumentation generally tends towards subtly enhancing her vocal delivery. There’s some lovely harmonica over the shuffling ‘Sweet Revenge’, particularly the final shimmer. ‘Wild Wind’ which works surprisingly well delivered way down in Corrie’s vocal range, is suffused with a militaristic percussion and Jon Brindley’s melancholy fiddle.

If revisiting a teenage exam piece (‘Love Is Blind’) could seem like a risky move, Corrie’s reworking means that it does manage to deliver, whilst also suggesting that it must have been a fairly mature song originally.

Her voice is warm, rounded and touched with her Lancashire accent. There’s a strong focus on narrative and storytelling, as well as a delightful way with melody. Her a capella song, ‘Jonny’ about the devastation to one family of a mining disaster, is particularly good. To this displaced Lancastrian, there’s something rather comforting and homely about her sound, a Proustian connection with folk music from childhood days.

A nice touch was the little envelope of teabag and sugar sachet – representing the titular ‘leaf’ and ‘cane’, symbols both of global exploration and imperial domination and simple daily comforts – that came with the review copy. The drink that fuelled the writing of these songs (as well as this review) also forms the common thread between them. It’s easy to picture Corrie, warm mug in hand as her inspiration roves from tales of 17th century piracy on ‘Whydah’ via historical fiction (‘Sir William And The Father’) to more modern themes and viewpoints.

So, go on, join in. Put the kettle on, make a brew and settle in for a jolly good listen to this very accessible album.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: http://www.corrieshelley.com

‘Whydah’ – live: