DAVE COUSINS – The Boy In The Sailor Suit   (Esoteric ECLEC2723)

The Boy In The Sailor SuitOriginally released in 2007 The Boy In The Sailor Suit has now been reissued with three bonus live tracks featuring the core of the backing musicians now named The Blue Angel Orchestra: Miller Anderson, Ian Cutler, Chas Cronk and Chris Hunt.

Many of these songs are very personal to Dave although the opener, ‘Never Take Sweets From A Stranger’, a ghost story telling a parallel story to that of ‘Big Joe & Phantom 309’ is a wonderful flight of fancy with the sort of erotic overtones that DC likes. Dave’s father figures in the next two songs. ‘Mellow Moon’ was written on the channel coast during a solar eclipse as Dave contemplates the fate of his father, a submariner. ‘The Smile You Left Behind’ meditates on the life of the boy in the sailor suit – his father – beginning with his lightning courtship of Dave’s mother and ending with his death.

Dave’s mother was known as ‘Mother Luck’ and the song is partly about her but mostly about a restaurant in Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, an entirely different story that goes back a century or more.  Nostalgia continues with ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Hellfire Blues’ about the corner of Kent where the Battle of Britain raged most fiercely. In fact, ‘Bringing In The Harvest’ brings that nostalgia up to date as DC talks of crops grown on old airfields and fish caught among wrecked ships in the channel.

The live tracks are ‘Never Take Sweets From A Stranger”, recorded in Milwaukee, and ‘Skip To My Lou’ and ‘Hellfire Blues’ from the wonderful 40th anniversary weekend in Twickenham.

The Boy In The Sailor Suit incorporates all the styles that Strawbs have employed over the years from the quiet acoustic approach of the early years to the heavier beats of the Oyster/Arista era. Add to those the country influences of Cutler’s fiddle on songs like ‘Skip To My Lou’ and Miller Anderson’s powerful guitar and you have an album that is immediately recognisable as Cousins but not quite like any other. I must confess that this is a record has languished on my shelf in recent years – it’s not the only one, I hasten to add – so it’s really good to be reacquainted with it.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.strawbsweb.co.uk

‘Never Take Sweets From A Stranger’: