CORRIE SHELLEY – Forget Me Not (own label CSSSMCD003)

Forget Me NotSince the release of her previous album I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Corrie Shelley although I’ve not yet heard her perform live. Although I don’t claim to know her, I have an inkling of what she’s about and that helps. Forget Me Not sounds rather more uniform than The Leaf And The Cane, perhaps because of the smaller band: Stephen Shelley, Les Hilton and producer John Kettle with Nicki Louise playing bass on one track. That said, the sound is big and rich – indeed ‘My Hands’ is pure folk-rock but Corrie has the voice to handle it.

Some of the inspiration comes from her family but when you read that the opener, ‘I Wish I’d Listened’, comes from what her father said in the car on the way to her first wedding you know that she hasn’t lost any of her bite. ‘The Box’ might be about that same husband but I can’t be sure but ‘Alice’ is a much gentler song concerning her mother in law’s experiences as a war-time evacuee. ‘My Hands’ is for Corrie’s son and ‘Clocks’ for her grandfather while ‘Recognition’ continues a theme from her first album and is about her mother.

‘Culloden’ is one of Corrie’s historical songs which she says was inspired by Outlander and I really like the addition of a snippet of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ at the end. The television show, Nashville, inspired ‘Wine & The Liquor’ but Corrie doesn’t countrify the hell out of it – just a restrained lap-steel break by Les who doesn’t touch his harmonica once. The deaths of major musicians over the last few years gave rise to ‘Hard To Believe’, something we’ve all felt recently. ‘Sit Down Together’ was co-written with Bob Kettle and has something of the style of one of his Merry Hell anthems and ‘Big Man’ is just for fun – at least I hope the Johnny Cash riff wasn’t intended seriously.

Forget Me Not is another really good record and, although she may not want to, I do think that it’s time that Corrie got herself a deal allowing her to do things on a bigger scale. My copy came with a packet of seeds (do they all?) – forget me not, of course.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Clocks’ – official video:

CORRIE SHELLEY – The Leaf And The Cane (Own Label CSSSMCD002)

The Leaf And The CaneYou know how it is, you spend 30 years busy doing other life stuff away from music, then seemingly effortlessly drop two self-composed albums within the space of a year. Corrie Shelley certainly knows how that goes, since her second album The Leaf And The Cane hit the shops late last year.

Much like her debut, Painted Memories, this latest work skips nimbly among the folk/rock borderlands. Although only the final two tracks – both collaborative compositions and performances – definitively stray into rockier territory. Both ‘Storm Coming’ and ‘Pale Maiden II’ break with the more intimate mood of the preceding songs whilst showing Shelley perfectly at home in a larger band setting. ‘Pale Maiden II’, for instance, commemorates those who fought in the Falklands War, as seen from the viewpoint of the islands’ national flower.

These tracks aside, the instrumentation generally tends towards subtly enhancing her vocal delivery. There’s some lovely harmonica over the shuffling ‘Sweet Revenge’, particularly the final shimmer. ‘Wild Wind’ which works surprisingly well delivered way down in Corrie’s vocal range, is suffused with a militaristic percussion and Jon Brindley’s melancholy fiddle.

If revisiting a teenage exam piece (‘Love Is Blind’) could seem like a risky move, Corrie’s reworking means that it does manage to deliver, whilst also suggesting that it must have been a fairly mature song originally.

Her voice is warm, rounded and touched with her Lancashire accent. There’s a strong focus on narrative and storytelling, as well as a delightful way with melody. Her a capella song, ‘Jonny’ about the devastation to one family of a mining disaster, is particularly good. To this displaced Lancastrian, there’s something rather comforting and homely about her sound, a Proustian connection with folk music from childhood days.

A nice touch was the little envelope of teabag and sugar sachet – representing the titular ‘leaf’ and ‘cane’, symbols both of global exploration and imperial domination and simple daily comforts – that came with the review copy. The drink that fuelled the writing of these songs (as well as this review) also forms the common thread between them. It’s easy to picture Corrie, warm mug in hand as her inspiration roves from tales of 17th century piracy on ‘Whydah’ via historical fiction (‘Sir William And The Father’) to more modern themes and viewpoints.

So, go on, join in. Put the kettle on, make a brew and settle in for a jolly good listen to this very accessible album.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: http://www.corrieshelley.com

‘Whydah’ – live: