DARREN BLACK – Lord Abergavenny’s Hills (own label DBCD004)

LAHDarren Black is well-known in these parts: a musician who has paid more than enough dues to merit some real recognition. I’ve heard him in small cellar bars and on the big stage, supporting Buffy Sainte Marie. This could be the album to do it for him.

Lord Abergavenny’s Hills is an area of land around Blaenavon and the album tells the story of the rise and fall of the mining industry in the area with big stories and small tales. The opening track, ‘Intro: Before The Revolution’, is a pastoral piece representing the land before the miners came. It’s very simple with Darren multi-tracking his acoustic guitars and sets the style of the album. Later, Darren plays also fiddle and percussion and Lennie Harvey adds resonator and Weisenborn to two tracks.

‘The Head Man’ is one of the small tales, the story of the Blaenavon Ironworks from 1794 and something of a rarity – a benevolent ironmaster. Darren immediately changes the scale with ‘Pig Iron’ telling of the first industrialisation which began in 1789 and changed the face of that part of south Wales for two centuries. ‘Tell It To The Cow’ is another amusing small tales and ‘The Enemy Within’ is …well, you don’t need me to explain it.

The contrast between Darren’s clean, stripped back style and the history of heavy industry is quite stark and gives the album a little edge. One track I have reservations about is ‘Hats Off To The Rest’. Admittedly there is an element of slapstick comedy about some of the ways in which death came but, although Darren notes that he didn’t want the song to be morbid, I find the light-heartedness rather jarring. That said, Lord Abergavenny’s Hills is an excellent album.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://darrenblack.bandcamp.com/

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