Having gone totally off the radar after the release of his 1971 album, 12-string maestro Trevor Midgley finally resurfaced on Cherry Red in 2011 with a series of remasterings or re-recordings. The following year he released his first collection of new material in 41 years and now seems to be doing so on an annual basis. Once again, this third gathering of new songs, released to coincide with his 70th birthday, is a download only release and, again, marries a mix of social and political commentary.
I’ve noted before a similarity with the likes of Jackson C Frank, Phil Ochs, Dylan, Harvey Andrews and Country Joe McDonald, but I should also add here Jake Thakray, most notably so (both in swallowed vocal delivery and content) on the title track opener, a satirical comment on the dumbing down of the nation as a man is found not guilty of ever having an original though in his life.
Patriotism and the way it can be manipulated forms the thrust of the fingerpicked ‘The Patriot’ (“They tell me how liberty comes at a price; That no price is ever too high. When devils are driving the wind to the sails.”) while the briskly strummed ‘The Promised Land’ turns its attention to the influence of focus groups on forming political policy that often reflects their own interests. By way of change of focus, over a circling guitar pattern, ‘Longhope’ pays tribute to the eight man volunteer crew of the Longhope lifeboat who lost their lives in the 1969 disaster during an attempted rescue.
It’s back then to barbed commentary, adopting a sprightly, almost salvationist hymnal style tune for ‘The Thinking Of God’ about those who, from Pastors to Imams take it upon themselves to interpret the divine will of their choice, while ‘A Peace That’s Bad’ is a Country Joe-like strummed reminder that a ‘Peace that’s seen to be unjust fuels conflict and distrust’. Elsewhere, ‘Skeletons Dance’, with its music hall whirlygig melody, addresses political hypocrisy and its tabloid press exposure, ‘Little By Little’ casts an eye on the way increasing surveillance is gradually eroding our freedoms and the gypsy waltzing tragedy of ‘Something Of A Loner’ sounds an all too familiar note about the fate of those we see as social misfits (“Oh, it must be ten years. He was here when we came. He lived in the flats. No, I don’t know his name. He always wore medals. We thought he was weird. And the kids, well, whenever they saw him they jeered.”)
It’s not all so pessimistic. ‘The Trotter Sisters’ is an amusingly wry bluesy tale of the showbiz comeback of sibling contortionists, so famous Madonna plays backup and the ragtime-styled ‘Everything’s Possible’ is a celebration of human ingenuity that namechecks Gutenberg, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming and Tim Berners-Lee, along with the inventors of the wheel and the compass. The optimism and resilience of the human spirit gets a personal note too in the circling melody of ‘Mary Huddleston’, the poignant story of his own great aunt who sailed from Liverpool on a way one trip to carve a new life in the Cape, braving all adversity to raise a farm and family.
Fittingly then, he closes on an upbeat note with the energetically strummed ‘Hope’, a reminder that, despite all the connivances of the body politic and of those of power and privilege that “hope will be the last to die.” Not original thoughts perhaps, but perceptive and well honed nonetheless.
Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/
‘Longhope’ – probably an unofficial video: