DANIEL NESTLERODE – Windrush (Clunk & Rattle Records CRLP021)

WindrushBorn in Pennsylvania, raised in California and currently based in France after seven years living in Cambridgeshire, Nestlerode was inspired to make the album following the recent Windrush repatriation scandal, intending it as both a celebration of the Windrush Generation and the courage it took to leave their homes for a new and often hostile land while, at the same time, also reflecting on the landmarks and changes in his own life over the past decade.

Following the brief instrumental introduction ‘White Flower Waltz’, it opens on one such personal note with the jaunty mandolin accompanied ‘Unexpectedly’, a song about how it felt when he met his wife to be. The first thing that strikes about his voice is how much he resembles the great Stan Rogers, something that also echoes in his melodies. Again featuring mandolin with some thumping drums making an entrance, ‘Living The Dream’ continues the romantic journey with a shuffling bouncy rhythm as he contemplates such concerns as being an American citizen married to a French wife living in England in the shadow of Brexit.

Also on a family note, the waltzing ‘Tout Ce Qui Fait Toi’, sung in both English and French, speaks of becoming a first-time father while, opening with toy piano, ‘Being a Boy’ how it feels to raise a son “who likes rockets, dragons … jewellery, fashion and learning to fly”, though the sings is basically about how soon childhood passes as the grown up world comes calling and laying down rules.

And then there’s ‘After All’, the last song written for the album, a pulsing walking drum beat underpinning acoustic strum and featuring guitar solo, that reflects on how, after his wanderings and the collapse of a previous marriage, settling in France felt like coming home to somewhere that wasn’t cold and monochrome.

As well as his own material there’s also a cover and three traditional numbers, the former being the slow beat sway of ‘C’est Noyé’, sung in French and written by American chanteuse Victoria Vox, this too having a personal connection in that it was the only French he could speak or sing when he met wife Claudine in Cambridge.

Turning to the traditional, two are about loss, the first being an uptempo jog through the American Civil War number ‘The Vacant Chair’ directly followed by the Scottish farewell lament (though equally popular in Ireland) ‘The Parting Glass’ with its drone backing. The third is an instrumental, a mandolin arrangement of the Appalachian fiddle tune ‘Blackberry Blossom’ which, for those who know these things, apparently shifts between keys, that also features co-producer Chris Pepper on harmonium.

Surprisingly perhaps, the title track is also an instrumental, tribal thumping drums and mandolin runs, drawing on self-professed influences Ennio Morricone and French guitarist (and Dylan covers specialist) Hugues Aufay, as well as some surf guitar twang and mazurka shades, to capture the spirit of those immigrants as, featuring acoustic and electric mandolin and guitar, bass, harmonium and percussion it build to an abrupt halt.

Windrush ends with another instrumental an extended reprise of ‘White Flower Waltz’, written in northern France during the recording process in appreciation of a supportive friend, a gentle end to an unfussy, unpretentious, unshowy but finely crafted album that stands as testament to a life lived and the determination and fortitude to settle and find a home.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.nestlerode.eu

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