In the distant past, Scardanelli used to be Simon Tedd, one half of 80s acoustic duo Big Bam Boo, these days he’s a solo artist with four folk-inclined albums already under his belt. On The Rock, The Sea, The Rising Tide he plays everything you hear, primarily acoustic guitar, but also with shades of violin, cello, recorder, ukulele, harmonium and Turkish cumbus.
I’ll be the first to admit his voice and vocal delivery can take a little acclimatizing to, but perseverance pays off, and the songs are always worth sparing an ear. Case in point being the opener, ‘The Ballad Of Jago Trelawney’, a dramatic fingerpicked narrative, from whence comes the album title, based on the 1793 sea battle between the English and French frigates the Nymph and Cleopatre during the Napoleonic Wars and the fate of the fictional titular Cornish tin miner pressed into service.
The album remains afloat for the following three tracks, ‘The Cold Green Sea’, a fluttering guitar ballad about the suicide of an Edwardian gentlewoman fallen from grace when she becomes pregnant by her now slain soldier lover, and the quasi-operatic ‘Pearly Diving Sea’, a song of parted lovers and panning for gold.
A ruminative instrumental, ‘Becalmed’ provides a bridge to ‘Different’, a gently fingerpicked and recorder solo song basically about not learning from history that draws inspiration from the religious persecution of the Elizabethan era with its allusion to priest holes.
Edging towards the six-minute mark and recalling perhaps the late Vin Garbutt, ‘Patience’ turns the gaze inward on creative prevarication as he declares
Patience is a virtue that I never had time to learn
I’ve been too busy making up for lost time to wait my turn
my best foot forward means one of them drags behindand I’d be one step ahead of the game if I could only find –
if I could find – the starting line
and how “I got a novel in my head and a hundred songs kicking around, most of them will never see the light of day, but I’m much too insecure to ever throw them away”.
A particularly striking lyric set to a circling guitar with cascading vocal notes, ‘Human Nature – The Cry’ turns a cynical – or perhaps realistic – view on mankind’s apparent predispostion for self-destruction through wilful ignorance. The number’s reprised, in longer ‘Lament’ form, as a slightly longer and more musically minimalist ukulele-accompanied final track
An odd one, ‘A Simple Case Of Time’, which has echoes of early Roy Harper, seems to mingle ideas of gambling and mortality. Then, returning to recorder and introducing cumbus, ‘Star City’ opens with another note of prevarication (“I thought about living in Star City/But I just don’t get things done, no/I just never ever get done”) but then shifts into a theme of mental illness and medication, and the conclusion that the world is enough to send anyone mad.
Finally comes ‘Requiem For The City Of New York’, a downbeat metaphorical reflection of time and tide’s fading fortunes in a snapshot of one time Broadway girl and her former dancer lover, now “perched upon a barstool downtown…tobacco stains, red lipstick, and fake pearls” as the “world looks on with pity” but “no-one likes a loser so throw away, disposable and cheap”.
Now based in Brittany, he’s very much on the folk fringe, but, as the press notes observe, if your inclinations lean to the less immediate sides of Scott Walker, Tim Buckley, Vini Reilly and, I’d suggest, David Ackles, then he’s well worth seeking out.
Artist’s website: www.scardanelli.com
‘Patience (Radio Edit):