Rise Above The Mumblings is singer/songwriter Darren Black’s third solo album and his first for six years having worked for the last few years with Deborah Peake as Black Peak. I’ve heard him a few times and enjoyed what he’s done in what felt like his usual role as a go-to support act in these parts. That’s grossly unfair, of course, but his profile has never been terribly high.
Darren plays finger style guitar and fiddle and has pared back his sound on this album to the very basics. He plucks a little violin and producer Kevin Dempsey adds some lead guitar on four of the ten tracks but otherwise it’s just voice and guitar. Dempsey’s contributions are restrained and immaculate but you’d expect that, of course. The songs are deceptively simple and easily accessible but sometimes you have to drill down for his meaning – or perhaps that should be your meaning; the meaning you take from his poetry.
The opener, ‘Leave No Trail’, is about going your own way even though you know that you’ll be on your own and that fame and riches will not be yours. ‘My Snowman’s Melting’ is a song of longing for a returning spring but with hints of dystopia – why must you avoid the dogs, Darren? Guard dogs, a pack of feral hounds or just an unfriendly game-keeper? ‘Time Swallows Time’ and ‘Brevity Levels’ are comments on contrasting lifestyles but neither is exactly straightforward. And so it goes.
I wish Darren – and this album – well. His dues have been well and truly paid and he deserves his time in the sun.
JIM MORAY, Black Peak:
Folking Live at Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell – October 24th 2012.
Reviewed by Colin Bailey.
It was the first time a Folking Live event had taken place in the august surroundings of the Wilde Theatre at South Hill Park, and expectations were high. We even applauded promoter Phil Daniels as he came on stage to introduce the evening. For this auspicious occasion the support act were the planned Cellar Bar headliners for January 2013, Black Peak. Darren Black and Deborah Peake, masterfully accompanied by Chris Gatland on bass and percussion, played a fair number of the tracks from their first full-length CD In Times Back When, and were well received. Darren’s delicately modulated vocals and accomplished guitar work along with Deborah’s strong yet restrained fiddle playing perfectly suited their pastorally tinged songs of social conscience.
Jim Moray is a walking folk encyclopedia and gave us fulsome background information to each carefully chosen song he played. After opening with the plaintive “night visiting song” ‘Three Black Feathers’, he moved into the only “happy ever after song” he claimed to know, ‘Jenny Of The Moor’. ‘Hind Etin’ from this year’s acclaimed Skulk was the first Child Ballad of the night, and ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ from the same album took us even further along the path of morose though brilliantly executed songs. While he remained at the piano, the mood was somewhat lifted through a shift from older trad material to the lyrically more contemporary ‘Poverty Knock’. A slightly up-tempo rendition of his Skulk version of ‘Horkstow Grange’ was delivered complete with synthesised 4 part harmony (à la Percy Grainger wax cylinder recording).
Introduced as a happy song from his home county of Staffordshire, ‘The Golden Glove’ was performed on bouzar (or was it a gazouki?) One curiosity was an early song of his own, ‘Adam Ant Alone In His Padded Cell’, played as a country song as he thought that’s how Adam would like it! Given the sad news that Dundonian singer-songwriter Michael Marra had died the day previously, we listened with mixed emotions to Marra’s noted anti-war song ‘Happed In Mist’. Showcasing his voice to excellent effect, the high spot of the evening was ‘If It’s True’ from Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown folk opera (in which Jim had played the part of Orpheus). ‘Lord Douglas’ was another vocal highlight, featuring lovely accompaniment. As we moved towards the end, Jim engaged the crowd to join in with the chorus of Bruce Molsky’s ‘Peg And Awl’. The last song of the set, sung for his hero Nic Jones, was ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ and was a tour-de-force. We ended the evening altogether on a light note with the song he’d written for his sister, Jackie Oates, ‘Wishfulness Waltz’. Not only a leading innovator in today’s folk world, this was an accomplished performer, still scaling the peaks. The evening was a fine showcase for the potential of high-quality events of this genre on the Wilde Theatre stage.
“One of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com
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