The first song of this album, ‘Just A Song’, is such a perfect opener for a live set that I was almost surprised not to hear applause at the end. Sally Ironmonger & Brian Carter are a singer/songwriter duo from the Medway area – Brian is a mean guitarist, too – and Sketches is their fourth studio album. Their natural habitat is the folk club and festival stage and they are unapologetic in saying that entertaining audiences is their primary aim.
‘Just A Song’ points out that first world problems are insignificant compared with the real suffering that’s happening in the world. It’s clever, if not particularly subtle, and guaranteed to get an audience singing along and that’s true of the majority of their writing. The album title comes from ‘Sketches By Boz’, a comparison of the modern world with the Dickensian years. I have to be critical and say that I think it would be a better song without the title being used as a refrain. ‘My Backyard’ reflects on immigration with a individual twist and ‘Threadneedle Street’ takes a well-aimed pop at bankers.
They can be solemn, too. ‘Montgomery’ is the story of a Liberty Ship sunk in the Thames estuary in 1944. What makes it significant is that it still contains 1400 tonnes of high explosives. I’m sure that ‘The Bitter End’ comes from a true of a ropery girl hanged for murder with a rope that she probably helped to make. Sally lays on her estuary accent as thick as tar and I’d vote this as the best song on the record.
There are three non-original songs. The first is ’50 Years’ by Ian Petrie – a bit self-referential but it suits the duo’s style very well as does Chumbawamba’s ‘El Fusilado’. The third, which closes the album, is ‘Willy O’Winsbury’; a robust performance which matches the father and daughter confrontation. Sally and Brian don’t try to do anything clever with the song which can be quite rare these days.
Sketches is an album firmly rooted in reality and one that always entertains. I’d like to see Sally and Brian on stage when you-know-what is all over.
Artists’ website: http://www.sallyironmonger.co.uk/index.html
‘My Backyard’ – live:
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