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

Artist’s website:

‘Demagogue Rules’ – official video: