BEAU – Damascus Road (Cherry Red BEAUDR1)

Damascus RoadCelebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of his debut album for John Peel’s Dandelion Records, Trevor Midgley follows-up Rattle The Asylum Bars with another playful but biting collection of 12-string led protest song commentaries that again reinforces his status as a British answer to Phil Ochs.

He kicks off taking a swipe at the back scratching that goes on in the world of Freemasonry – although clearly with wider implications – on jauntily catchy folk blues ‘Men of the World’ in which a wealthy, well-connected drunk driver gets his mates to pull a few strings to make things go away and, as a bonus, sends the bill to Her Ladyship.

The #MeToo movement spawns the sprightly waltztime ‘Kitten Kaboodle’, described as a “a traditional casting couch ballad” about a voluptuous blonde actress playing the game to land a part in a James Bond movie, the producer showing her his ‘thingamabob’ as “one of the perks of the job” and acceding to the director’s wandering eye and his penchant for ‘close-ups’. Of course, being who he is, he can’t resist courting controversy by suggesting that this is a two way game, since, “her Oscar performance, above and beyond/Brought Kitten a part in another James Bond”.

The punningly titled ‘Lacey Fayre’ muses on how the fight for female emancipation by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst has somehow ended up being manifested in the right of today’s liberated women to go out and get blasted on cheap vodka, getting fixed up in A&E, go clubbing and become social media celebrities for their lifestyles.

Meanwhile, political targets include duplicitous diplomats whose immunity puts them above the law (‘The Great Game’), subtle and covert Machiavellianism through which strong states dominate the weak in which wars are fought on very different battlegrounds (‘The Quiet Ones’), and, a particular catchy highlight, ‘Demagogue Rules’, a sort of primer for climbing the political ladder on the backs – or more particularly the fears – of others.

Inspired by an overheard conversation between a social worker and a rough sleeper, ‘Let’s Get The Show On The Road’ is one of two numbers that touch on tragedy where it’s the innocents that pay the price, the other being the sobering ‘Child Of Aberfan’, a reminder that corporate accountability remains a nebulous concept, just as when, back in 1966, Lord Alfred Robens, the then chair of the NCB opted to not visit the disaster until the following day as he had a more pressing appointment being installed as the first Chancellor of the University of Surrey. He also declined to fully fund the removal of other such coal tips and no charges of corporate manslaughter were ever brought. Did someone mention Grenfell?

‘Damascus Road’ itself is another number that draws on real events, here the 2017 massacre of 58 and the wounding of over 850 more when, in his room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Stephen Paddock opened fire, with an arsenal of legally owned weapons, on concert goers attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, for motives never ascertained. The allusions of the title and the lyric reference to Jesse James tell their own story.

Elsewhere, ‘Disciples’ addresses how, especially in the worlds of politics and entertainment, there’s always someone prepared to defend the indefensible, while ‘Rear View Mirror’ notes how history is written by the victors and collective (and personal) memory isn’t always attuned to the reality as myth becomes accepted as fact, a case in point being the fanciful legend of Washington and the cherry tree.

Ostensibly a true autobiographical tale, ‘The Ballad Of Tom Titterington’s Horse’ involves a fruiterer, his cart, a foul smelling horse, the narrator’s gran and a little matter of a child’s blackmail to get a top of the range new bike because “needs must when the devil drives”. The message about how the ends justify the means leads neatly to the final track, ‘The Party Must Go On’ which again touches on #MeToo and the way those captains of industry somehow think they and their actions are beyond the law when celebrations might get a little out of hand, because “Who is not entitled to a frolic and jape? / Ignore the gutter press equating fondling with rape”, but that, of course, leer in place, they should always “Remember, show our lady friends the utmost of respect”.

Unfortunately, even protest singers aren’t immune to the meddling of corporate discretion and of the need to be “awfully polite”, hence the original cover for the album (Saul impaled on a spear with a cowboy hat on it) being replaced by one more deemed less ‘offensive’ and more innocuous and bland. I look forward to a song about it on his next album.

Mike Davies

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‘Demagogue Rules’ – official video:

Beau announces 50th anniversary album

Beau

On April 18th way back in 1969, Trevor Midgley completed the recording of his debut Beau album for John Peel’s Dandelion label.

On Thursday, 18th April 2019 to celebrate the occasion, Cherry Red Records are releasing Damascus Road, a brand new 50th Anniversary set of songs.

Damascus Road will be available from download sites around the world (including of course iTunes and the Amazons), and will also stream on Spotify, Deezer and all other popular streaming services and Folking will be writing a review.

As always, the news agenda has come up trumps (no pun intended!), inspiring songs about demagoguery, diplomacy, the casting couch, Masonic influence, and a whole host of other topics.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘Demagogue Rules’ – official video:

BEAU – Rattle The Asylum Bars (Cherry Red BEAURTAB1)

Rattle The Asylum BarsReleased almost forty-nine years to the day since his first-ever John Peel recording sessions, approaching 72, his latest release and his tenth studio album, Rattle The Asylum Bars, finds Christopher John Trevor Midgley at his politically sharpest on a collection of thirteen songs that underline why he’s been referred to as England’s answer to Phil Ochs.

Armed with just his trusty 12-string Harmony guitar, the album’s topics range from Prohibition and lottery winners to Charlie Hebdo, opening with ‘Road To Valhalla’, a fierce strummed meditation on the ascent of mankind from its early origins that touches on both the idea of shared community through song and the tendency to shun outsiders for “fear of being displaced.”

With its circling fingerpicked chords and echoes of John Prine, ‘The Rose’ concerns a more specific subject, the death of young student Rachel Whitear in 2000 from a drugs overdose, but here told from the perspective of a medic attending yet another such incident of “the barbed wire wrapped around the rose.” Inspired by hearing the late Ian Paisley holding forth in the Houses of Parliament, not to mention the sanctimoniousness of the likes of Tony Blair and George Bush, ‘Moral Clarity’ sets a driving Bo Diddley riff to a playful but pointed swipe at those so blindly convinced of their own rectitude they refuse to countenance any other views.

Taking the pace down to a fairground folksy waltz, ‘People Like Me’ continues along much the same lines, referencing climate change, freedom of speech and such issues with a refrain about how the ‘right-thinking people’ (and the emphasis is on the political right, I suspect) are those who agree with you. Probably not one for Daily Mail subscribers.

The focus shifts to America for ‘The Angry Preacher’, a fingerpicked song about how the country’s noted philanthropists tend to be admired but rarely loved, based around a funeral and a wake and the cynical suspicion that such charity must hide some inner rot. We remain Stateside, slipping back several decades almost a century for ‘Bugs Moran’, another urgently delivered bluesy melody line and a delivery evocative of Jake Thackray that returns to the time of Prohibition for a narrative about the titular mobster, a rival to Al Capone who, having decided to sleep in (though the song has him watching from a coffee house), escaped being shot in the infamous St Valentine’s Day massacre.

It’s back to politics for the stately circular melody of ‘The Apathy Party’, a title that pretty much makes any comment on its lyrical content redundant, and from here to ‘The Hedgerows of England’, a shanty-like Swiftian commentary on how the unexpected acquisition of wealth via the lottery can shift political allegiance, the song couched in a member of the Establishment offering some advice on “oppressing the masses for profit and sport” to a new Country Member arrivee to the ranks.

One of the longer tracks, ‘The Hawk’ is another waltzer, an allegorical message to impetuous youth to fly responsibly on how not to embark on things you cannot conclude in the tale of a young bird learning to spread its wings, getting into difficulties and reminded that “take-off is optional, and landing is not.”

By way of departure from the other numbers, ‘The Ghost Train’ is a straightforward storysong about an old puppeteer and a bride and the forces of evil being abroad, set on All Hallows Eve. It’s back then to more serious concerns for the fingerpicked near seven-minute ‘The Only Soldier To Turn Up For The War’, a meditation on the possible reasons behind the Islamic radicalisation in prison of a young and troubled teenage Muslim girl, the victim of a dysfunctional family, drugs and abuse, turned into a suicide bomber. A song that seeks for explanations rather than simple condemnations, it’s a powerful, thought-provoking piece of work.

So too, in a different way is ‘Klara’, which, as historians may know, was the name of Adolf Hitler’s mother, the song referring to the premonition she’d had prior to his birth of the horrors he would bring and the claims that shed wanted to terminate the pregnancy. As such, the song extends beyond historical record to address the whole Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate and the division been moral absolutists and polemicists regarding balancing he life of one against the lives of the many.

Inspired by both the tragedy and the heroic defiance of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it ends with the title track, a rhythmically choppy number set to a tune that echoes Tim Hardin’s ‘Black Sheep Boy’, about the right to freedom of the press to poke fun at sacred cows and how “we cannot in the world exempt Anything from out contempt. To do would betray…this liberty we value most.”

Beau may not have the contemporary cachet of a Billy Bragg or a Frank Turner, but his voice for change and awareness is as strong as any of them.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk

Beau doesn’t do anything so conventional as releasing a video to go with his new album but here’s a song you probably won’t have heard – ‘The Peacemaker’:

BEAU –When Butterflies Scream (Cherry Red BEAUWBS1)

When Butterflies ScreamWhat with the likes of Steve Pledger and Will Varley the last couple of years have seen quite a resurgence in the protest song album on the UK’s contemporary folk/Americana circuit, but some have been doing this for years. I’ve written about Trevor Midgley aka Beau on these pages before and it’s good to report that his latest album, When Butterflies Scream, ably keeps up the standard. Sounding more than ever like Jake Thackray in his vocal delivery, it is, as ever, a no frills musical affair, predominantly just him and acoustic guitar, that allows the comments and commentary to take front of stage.

It opens with ‘Who Pays The Ferryman?’ not, you’ll be relieved to hear, a Chris De Burgh cover but, set to a slow mazurka rhythm etched out on accordion (one of the most elaborate instrumentations on the album) and drawing on Greek mythology and the figure of Charon who ferried the dead across the River Styx if they had the coin to pay, his take on the refugee crisis and the traffickers who exploit it. It’s a theme to which he returns on the closing seven-minute lyrically harrowing ‘The Immigrant’ with its recounting of mass executions, genocide rapes and those consigned to risk their lives in taking flight to see, those who survive being herded into camps while the politicians debate their fate (“We’re not in the business of profit and loss!” “Sort out the doctors and leave out the dross!”).

If that’s about effect, then ‘Kill The Idea’ looks at cause and how military attempts to eradicate an idea in the name of freedom more often causes it to drift “into different shapes that were harder to shift.”

The album’s title comes from a disturbing image in ‘Gerrymander Street Blockade’, a story of murky political goings on and cover ups, followed by the waltzing ‘The Song of the Pox Doctor’s Clerk’, a surely cynical suggestion that some of the Honours List gongs are handed out to, a she puts it, those who know where the bodies are buried (“It would be remiss for me here to disclose all names and addresses, but yes, there were those with reasons to quaver and even to quail; My peerage, it seemed, had been lost in the mail!”).

Government politics resurface with ‘The Mandarin’, an observation on those who ensure ministers are all singing from the same hymn sheet in the service of doctrinal mandates (“Alas we can’t claim to be wholly immune from bribery, sleaze and the inopportune. So, best we desist from our scheduled schemes, toppling dictators from dishonest regimes”).

One of the most pointedly barbed numbers is ‘The Promise’, a timely reminder of how badly the country and the MoD in particular, often treats those injured in the service of their country once they return home as it tells of how a hero survivor of his unit suffers from PSTD and ends up a down and out committing suicide by walking into the sea because “somehow, the Military Covenant’s promise had simply gone out through the door; And all that remained was a shirt on his back and the ribbons he steadfastly wore.

Elsewhere he turns his eye on the use of armed military drones with ‘The Fire’, calling on Newton’s law that for every action there’s an equal opposite action and, basically, if something can go wrong it will (“Missiles pack a punch, and this one didn’t mess around – The fireball arriving above the speed of sound. In the end, they called it an “unfortunate event”; chances of it happening? Around fifteen percent”).

Taking an aspiring Stravinsky as an example, ‘Ben & Jerry’s Coca-Cola Tarantella’ is about selling out your soul (or ideals) to the devil, or in this case the commercial imperative while both ‘The Nightmare’ and ‘It’s Only Just Begun’ both sound an apocalyptic note, the former a talking blues response to the election of Donald Trump and the latter, with references to Nero, Genghis Khan, the bombing of Dresden, the Falklands conflict, Bhopal and the morning after 10/11, a tale of the Devil fuelling man’s proclivity for death and mass destruction.

The remaining number, ‘Smilin’ Billy Lye’, is less obvious, ostensibly the story of a dirt track rider who, envious of Motorcycle Show stunt champion Crash Donovan (the name a nod to the 1936 Highway Patrol movie) takes up his Tunnel of Fire challenge with enigmatic results, but there’s a cautionary string in its tale.

It’s sadly unlikely that this is going to attract the sort of attention and acclaim accorded the current crop of folk’s socio-political commentators or find an audience much beyond Midgley’s fanbase, but those who do seek it out will be well rewarded.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website:   http://beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk/

There are no videos from the album available yet but here’s the opening track, ‘Who Pays The Ferryman’ in glorious living sound.

BEAU – An Original Thought (Cherry Red BEAUAOT1)

Beau - An Original ThoughtHaving 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.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘Longhope’ – probably an unofficial video:

A message from Beau

Beau - An Original Thought

The big news is that today, (9th May)  Cherry Red are celebrating my 70th birthday with a brand new Beau album, An Original Thought.

Written in just fourteen days (my most intense writing phase ever, even going back to my twenties!), An Original Thought contains songs about patriotism, invention, modern-day surveillance, showbiz comebacks and a lifeboat disaster. And that’s just for starters!

The album cover features my trusty 1967 Harmony twelve-string, photographed in 2014 by Rocker Rosehip.

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Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘The Patriot’ – official video: