ALLISON LUPTON – Words Of Love (own label ALCD005)

Words Of LoveAn Ontario singer-songwriter and flautist in the Celtic folk tradition, Lupton twins her own material with traditional numbers from both Canada and the UK, this being her fourth album (she also recorded last year’s single ‘The Eve Of Christmas Day’ with The Young ‘Uns) on which she’s backed by a five-piece band featuring fiddle, mandolin and dobro but no percussion, other than Shane Cook’s feet.

She opens with one of her own, ‘Away’, a musically lively fiddle-driven song, inspired by her great uncle, one of some 100, 000 British children sent to Canada by the likes of Thomas Barnado’s Homes to work on farms between 1878 and 1948 in the hope, not always fulfilled, of a better life.

Andrew Collins’ mandolin providing a nervy backing, another uptempo track ‘What Will I Dream’ was commissioned for ‘Songs of Tomorrow’, a compilation on which Canadian artists where asked to reflect on their country’s place in the world prior to 2015’s federal election, followed by the first traditional number, returning to the theme of emigration with ‘When First I Went to Caledonia’, a melancholic reflection on how many Scottish settlers went to work in the Caledonia mine in Cape Breton, the tune here taken from the Gaeiluc ‘Mo Ruin Gael Dileas’.

Crossing back over the ocean, ‘Words Of Love’ itself is another upbeat fiddle-led number that has its origins in a show she performed at a decommissioned Methodiust church in Chippenham and learning of an old love letter, dated 1940, found during the renovations. Then, back in Ontario, the far slower swaying ‘Lost Jimmy Whelan’ is a log driver ballad set on the Mississippi and in the tradition of the bereaved lover being haunted from beyond the grave.

Providing an instrumental break with Lupton on tin whistle, ‘Ontario Tune Set’ is just that, a collection of three tunes from her home province.

It’s back then to self-penned material with the musically complex ‘Dusty Boots’ and another number about migration, this time internal, and inspired by how her paternal grandfather became one of thousands of young men in the 1920s who rode the Canadian Pacific Railway to work on the threshing teams in Western Canada.

The final traditional comes from the UK in the form of the oft-recorded ‘Poverty Knock’ (most recently by Thomas Ashworth) about the hardships of the weavers in the textile mills of Northern England in the 1890s, Lupton bringing a fresh, more uptempo, arrangement with pizzicato fiddle.

She brings things to a close with two more of her own, ‘I Will Rise’, a suitably musically upbeat song of resilience inspired by the strength of loved ones and featuring Ivan Rosenberg’s dobro solo, and, finally, taking the pace down to a reverie, the lovely Celtic-hued instrumental ‘The Grand River Waltz’ written in tribute to the watercourse that begins in the Ontario highlands and flows into Lake Erie.

Unpretentious and rich with her love of traditional folk music, life and the land of her birth, put the word about.

Mike Davies

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‘What Will I Dream’ – live:

 

 

ALLISON LUPTON – Half My Heart (Learig LM003)

halfmyheartThere is refreshing sense of innocence about this album and I hope Allison won’t mind me saying so, given that she’s a seasoned professional, but Half My Heart charmed me from the start.

That start is ‘Bonnie & May’, written by Allison with Geoff Somers and Craig Werth. It’s an upbeat country song about a man who loves his plough horses and given that it’s an American music form written and performed by Canadians, it feels decidedly Scottish.

It may be of significance that her start in folk music came in a band called Killiecrankie and, sure enough, a little way down the line is ‘The Lichtbob’s Lassie’, a beautiful little traditional Scottish song. The other traditional song is the Irish ‘Sally Greer’ so there is no established pattern.

Allison is from Ontario and much honoured in her native land although this is only her third album in a fourteen year career. She is known as a songwriter but only five of the thirteen tracks here are written or co-written by her. The title track is based on the habit of mothers leaving babies at the 18th century London Foundling Hospital to give the child half of a piece of cloth – a sort of broken token – and keep half should future identification prove necessary. Given the subject matter the song is more pragmatic than sentimental suggesting that it was just the way things were.

It’s the borrowing of songs and tunes here that’s fascinating. Allison makes a medley of Oliver Schroer and Bill Pickell and places Gerry O’Beirne’s ‘The Isle Of Malachy’ next to Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Love Song’. The themes of travel and separation run through the album from ‘Half My Heart’ via ‘Wooden Ships’ to another of her own songs, ‘Over The Ocean To Canada’ (imaginatively melded with Irving Berlin’s ‘Always’). Perhaps that is inevitable in a country largely populated by immigrants and their descendants.

Musically, Shane Cook’s fiddle and the banjos of Ian Bell and Craig Werth are key elements, Allison plays flute on the instrumental tracks and guest musicians are used to great effect to augment the core band. As I said, Half My Heart is an album of great charm.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Bonnie & May’ – official video: