MOIRAI – Framed: The Alice Wheeldon Story (WildGoose WGS433CD)

FramedI’m sometimes amazed at the historical material that musicians succeed in writing about, from Gary Miller’s epic Mad Martins to Amy Goddard’s poignant ‘Remembering Aberfan’. I think that Moirai have outdone them all with Framed. It tells how Alice Wheeldon and members of her family were imprisoned for plotting to poison David Lloyd George and Labour party chairman Arthur Henderson. Now, Lloyd George was a somewhat controversial figure but thankfully Moirai spare us a chorus of ‘Lloyd George Knew My Father’, allegedly referring to his sexual activities. Alice and her family were pacifists, socialists and anti-conscription and the feeling now is that they were, indeed, framed. There is an on-going campaign to clear their names and you can read more about the story by following the link below.

Almost all of the album is written by Melanie Biggs, Jo Freya and Sarah Matthews. After Sarah’s ‘Prologue’ they further set the scene with ‘I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier’, a popular American anti-war song. They succeed in subtle ways to evoke the musical styles of the period – a brief borrowing from Harry Champion sets up ‘Proper Gander’, a description of the lifestyle pursued by Alice and her associates. That is followed by ‘DORA Is Here For You’; DORA being the Defence Of The Realm Act which was the blunt instrument used to bring the charges.

The songs are interspersed with instrumentals written to reinforce the changing moods of the album – do I need to tell you that the story doesn’t end well? ‘Twisted Round’, a piece in seven time by Jo, represents the confusion of the trial and ‘Win To Hett’ by Mel, is a melancholy tune representing their time in prison. There is defiance in ‘What Am I Here For?’, based on words taken from Alice’s letters and prison records but the story does end in sadness and Alice’s funeral.

I can’t help thinking that politics haven’t changed much over the last century. The government strengthens its grip on power and socialists are reviled, it all sounds so familiar. Framed may be a story from history but it’s also an album for our times.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.moiraitrio.co.uk
For the full story go to: www.alicewheeldon.org

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