EWAN MCLENNAN & GEORGE MONBIOT – Breaking The Spell Of Loneliness (Fellside FECD277)

George MonbiotThis album might come as a surprise. Fast-rising singer/songwriter and interpreter of the tradition Ewan McLennan joins forces with George Monbiot, journalist and bête noire of the fascist classes – or at least those sections of it that can actually read – to explore one of the themes of Monbiot’s columns. Breaking The Spell Of Loneliness is as much about alienation as simple human loneliness and I wondered if it was a phenomenon link to an aging population but neither Ewan nor George are exactly superannuated.

In fact, Monbiot doesn’t actually appear on the album although it was he who started the project off and co-wrote the songs with McLennan often from his own sketches. In a blind listening this is Ewan’s album and if I’d been in charge I would have included sections of George reading his own prose; with only nine tracks there is plenty of room. In fact, I was surprised that it wasn’t so.

The set opens with ‘Such A Thing As Society’, an obvious riposte to the attitude of the right wing. ‘The Child Inside’ is about a form of alienation; that of children from their environment. It has been forced upon them by the changes in society; there are few places that aren’t fenced off or built over and years of paedophile scares have made parents hyper-protective. ‘Reclaim The Street’ applies the same theme to the adult world – how well do we know are neighbours? How far can we rely on them in times of trouble, or indeed, they on us? ‘The Night Desk’ stems from George’s experience in a police station (no, he hadn’t been arrested) and is remarkably sympathetic to the poor sods who work in such places. If you regard the police as the paramilitary wing of a fascist government, you won’t like it but George has an admirable empathy with his fellow man.

Finally, the record is summed up by ‘We Shall Overcome’, always a song of solidarity and its third verse “we are not alone” should be the take-home message; even though we have to work towards that goal.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ websites: www.ewanmclennan.co.uk / www.monbiot.com

George Monbiot talks about Breaking The Spell Of Loneliness: