I suppose that I first encountered Vikki Clayton one Cropredy when she was fronting Fairport Convention to perform some of Sandy Denny’s songs. I bought a lot of her albums but sort of lost touch with her after Movers And Shakers and that was twenty years ago. There is even a web thread called “Whatever happened to Vikki Clayton?’ so it’s not entirely my fault. Now she is back with Messenger, her first new music since 2001.
Chris Conway, who has been with Vikki for the past two decades, has a major role on the record, writing one track, the gorgeous ‘Coming Into Land’, along with co-producer Neil Segrott and guitarist Martin Burch who donated the song ‘If This Isn’t Love’. It is tempting to call Messenger simple because of the small number of performers involved but it’s anything but. ‘The Migrant’, a superb song, is immensely complex and features Conway, Burch and Segrott alongside Vikki and is the biggest sound on the record.
The opener, ‘The Gardener’, sounds traditional but isn’t and Conway handles all the instruments including bombard whilst ‘Reynardine’, which is traditional, is accompanied solely by Neil Segrott on “robots”. I sometimes get the feeling that we’re listening to a group of friends having fun in the studio to see what happens. It was probably a lot more organised but I like that feel. Other borrowed songs are John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’ – an absolutely stunning reading of the song with Martin Burch’s guitar hanging over the song – and the traditional ‘Now Is The Hour’.
If I have to be critical, and it’s my job so I do, I’d like the lyrics or at least some notes on the songs. Is ‘Cuba Street’ a real place, for example, or, as I suspect, a metaphor? Vikki does seem to keep herself to herself and lets her music do her talking. Her website seems very new and doesn’t yet top the lists of a search so if this is a comeback or a new beginning, it is a very welcome one.
Not from the new album but this is Vikki with Chris Conway – ‘Ten Years’: