A CD arriving from New Zealand is not an everyday occurrence but, nevertheless, a welcome one. We first came upon singer-songwriter Nigel Parry via a single ‘The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors’, the penultimate track on his new album, Tales Of Common Folk, Salt & Sweet Kisses. It’s a somewhat unwieldy title but perfectly describes the record’s contents.
Now based in Wellington, Nigel is English by birth which explains his ability to move between the old world and the new and the somewhat grisly opening track, ‘Three Danish Galleys’, full of murder and mayhem as befits an English folk song. It tells of a Viking raid in which a man was murdered and his bride kidnapped – she, in turn, was thrown overboard when she proved uncooperative. Nigel gives it a wistful accompaniment enhanced by Karen Jones’ harp. He takes it at face value but there is a theory that it’s a glorious fake, probably written by Ruth Tongue. Who can be sure?
‘Flowers In Autumn’, written by Nigel, is definitely pseudo-traditional telling of a young girl who has lost her lover at sea but continues to wait for him. There is a twist which I won’t spoil for you. Again, a lovely arrangement with guitar, strings and sweet backing vocals. ‘Lament For Her Jolly Sailor Bold’ covers similar ground.
There are more common folk in Dave Sudbury’s ‘King Of Rome’, sung over a drone that sounds oddly like an aircraft engine with massed voices telling Charlie how wrong he was. They were the ones in the wrong, of course. ‘Rosemary’s Rosy Doorway’, again by Nigel, sounds English but there may be small villages a long way from the town in New Zealand, too. ‘Nine Pairs Of Eyes’ and ‘The Notch’ are set among the whaler families of the Marlborough Sounds so we know where we are. Their traditional way of life was ultimately destroyed by Russian and Japanese factory ships. Nigel provides atmospheric effects of wind, water and whale-song on both songs.
‘One Word War’ is, how to describe it?, a devastating song about the aftermath of war at the human level. You really do have to listen to it, I can’t possibly describe it. ‘The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors’ tells of the decline of a small rural town – I’m guessing it’s set in New Zealand but it could be anywhere in the world. Finally, Helen Dorothy’s ‘No More’ is about an emigrant ignoring the siren call of the old country. Helen duets with Nigel, each taking an opposing point of view. Tony Burt’s Dobro decorates what is probably the happiest song on the album.
Despite its air of sadness I really like Tales Of Common Folk, Salt & Sweet Kisses. At times I felt it needed an upbeat song to brighten the mood but on mature reflection, it would be unnecessary and might destroy the feeling of the album. It’s fine just as it is.
Artist’s website: www.nigelparrymusic.com
‘Three Danish Galleys’ – live: