When, in the post-Brexit dystopia, you can no longer afford a trip to your local folk club When Fishes Fly is one of the records you can play and remember how things were. Alistair Brown is a veteran Scottish singer and concertina player (now living in Cornwall) and he’s supported by Peter Wray on guitar and cittern and George Chippendale on fiddle and guitar. This is a veteran set as well, in the sense that a mixture of traditional songs and covers such as this is what we’ve been singing since the 60s.
Alistair begins with three traditional songs. The first is ‘Rue’, a relative of ‘Oh No Not I’ and tells of the use of the herb as an abortifacient often with fatal results for the mother. ‘The Glasgow Barber’ is an almost comic song concerning an immigrant from County Mayo who doesn’t like the hairstyle imposed on him by the titular hairdresser and ‘Braw Sailing On The Sea’ is a classic bothy ballad, much recorded in recent years.
Next come two real comic songs. ‘The Ballad Of Lidl And Aldi’ is written by Mickey McConnell and if you haven’t yet heard it see if you can guess the chorus before you do. ‘The Glens’ is something of a favourite of mine, loaded with punning rhymes, on the subject of whisky. Alistair moves then to ‘Shining Down On Sennen’ by Mike O’Connor which is a sort of cousin to Steve Knightley’s ‘Cousin Jack’ and a lovely song but then switches back to two more humorous songs which, I feel, overload the album a little His version of ‘Get Up And Bar The Door’ is different as is ‘The Working Chap’, sometimes known as ‘Work Life Out To Keep Life In’ and songs by Dave Evardson, Gordon Bok and Karine Polwart do much to balance to humour.
Yes, When Fishes Fly is a good old-fashioned folk-club set and none the worse for that.
The Bevvy Sisters first came to our ears in 2009 with an album of mostly old songs sung in the close harmony style of the 40s and 50s edged with jazz and blues. Five years later, their follow-up, Plan B, continued in the same vein, although perhaps a little more seriously. Now comes their third album, This Moment, and while the style remains broadly similar, the substance is rather more sophisticated – there is a distinct lack of banjo. There have been changes in line-up and Gina Rae and Louise Murphy complete the band with founding members Heather Macleod and “token male” David Donnelly.
All the songs except Melody Gardot’s ‘Love Me Like A River’ are written by band members. The opener, ‘Timing’, is an observation on the pace of modern life complete with fake station announcements, sung in the Bevvys’ classic style. ‘Get Go’ is a funky workout with Vini Bonnar guesting on drums and Macleod’s ‘Home’ presents a moody slice of lounge jazz with brief solos and fills which I guess are treated guitar by Donnelly.
‘Heal This Heart’ is a gently bluesy song by Murphy which begins softly with their other guest drummer, Tom Bancroft, being joined by Donnelly’s acoustic guitar. Inevitably it ends with rich harmonies from the three principals. A cover of a song by Melody Gardot is a real no-brainer in the context of this album, built on Andy Thorburn’s piano and Alistair Brown’s cello it’s smooth and lush.
There’s a change of pace towards the end with the rolling, country-tinged ‘Waterline’, possibly my favourite track of the set and the gentle ‘This Moment’ – sadly not the old Mike Heron song but addressing the same idea from a far less optimistic viewpoint.
This Moment is a smooth and sophisticated piece of work and I applaud The Bevvy Sisters for moving forward but I miss the sense of fun they used to bring to their music.
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