ANDY GRIFFITHS – Big Red Monster (Musician Records MR011)

Big Red MonsterThe Big Red Monster of the title is probably the rusting old tractor on the back cover but even Andy Griffiths isn’t quite sure. This is Andy’s third album of original songs, gentle and thoughtful with the laid-back support of a fine group of musicians including Rick Foot, Natasha Pattinson, Glen Hughes, John Budgen and Sally Barker.

The opening song, ‘Yesterday When’, is an exercise in nostalgia of the sort that every songwriter essays at some time, nice but undemanding. However, Andy quickly picks up the power with ‘The Liquorice Field’, a story of the young farm-hand and the girl from the big house. I set out looking for the history of liquorice growing in Britain, hoping that the fenlands from which Andy hails were its source, only to find that it hasn’t been grown commercially here for over a century and, as the song implies, only in Yorkshire. The reference to liquorice, however, gives the song a unique twist.

Nostalgia returns with ‘Lighthouse Keeper’ and ‘Tyneham Valley’, the memories of a young child displaced during the last war when the village was taken over by the army – another excellent song. My favourite track is probably ‘Any Day Now’ if only for its opening line: “I can’t remember getting arrested”. I suspect that it’s largely metaphorical but I’m not sure. Then again, ‘Sake Of My Heart’ is a description of alcoholism filled with clever wordplay and an air of mystery which, on reflection, is the best writing. Actually, Andy is adept at the art of oblique writing – I’ll figure out ‘Occasional Tables’ one day.

Twice through and I’m really getting into Big Red Monster. It’s beautifully played and there is something haunting in these songs that draws the listener back.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Liquorice Field’: