If music be the food of love, then prepare for indigestion … was the title of a 1967 album by a band I’m not prepared to mention here. It’s not quite appropriate in this case for although The Waters & The Wild serves up some rich fare it is very digestible indeed. I think I’ll stop now before I stretch the metaphor with remarks about loosening the top trouser button and sleeping in an armchair with a newspaper over your face. You get the idea.
If you haven’t caught up with them yet, Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. They are from Dorset and Dorset is a part of them and very much a part of this album. The record begins with two very contrasting songs. The first, ‘The Hour Of The Blackbird’, is a pastoral piece heralding the coming of spring and expanding the pagan idea of the winter and summer kings. It’s followed by ‘Halsewell’, the story of Dorset’s worst shipping disaster with dramatic vocals and a suitably thunderous accompaniment.
Jon’s multi-instrumental skills are augmented by James’ reed organ and various basses and drums, notably from Evan Carson, Joe Limburn and producer Mark Tucker with backing vocals from The Teacups. The biggest sound, however, comes from Barney Morse-Brown’s string arrangements recorded by him and Jane Griffiths and when I say big, I mean big.
‘Prickle-Eye Bush’ is a song that has come back into fashion again – or maybe it never went away – and I’m always tempted to skip over it on an album. Ninebarrow try to do something different with it and the hand percussion breathes some life back into it. That’s followed by ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ as borrowed from June Tabor. Neither of these songs are necessarily from Dorset but they could be. Jon and James immediately return home or ‘Hwome’ with that most Dorset of poets, William Barnes, but the song doesn’t overly rely on dialect and the arrangement is really nice, particularly in the outro section.
The title track is definitely an immigrant being derived from W B Yeats’ ‘The Stolen Child’ but the tune of ‘Row On’ was composed by another local, Tim Laycock and ‘Gather It In’ is a catalogue of old harvest customs. The last track is John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Sing A Full Song’, a song with a universal emotional appeal.
The lyrics and background information can be downloaded for free – lucky me, I received a pukka copy with the album; a rare case of a generous press agent. You know who you are. Although the words are not essential to the enjoyment of the album they, and the song notes, help to draw you into Ninebarrow’s musical world which is a very good place to be.
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‘Prickle-Eye Bush’ – live: