About five years ago I was bowled over by Make Believe, the debut album by Brewers Daughter. It was a fairly homespun affair – the music was great but the rest seemed like garnish. I wanted my local folk club to book her but I didn’t hear anything more of her. That is until a couple of weeks ago when an email appeared telling me about her new album, Jara. This is a rather more sprauncy package but I’m pleased to say that she hasn’t lost touch with her essential self.
Rhiannon Crutchley is indeed the daughter of a brewer and she lives on a narrow boat. She mostly presented as a fiddle singer then but she now emphasises her guitar playing a little more. That said, the fiddle playing on ‘Heritage’ is superb. Rhiannon’s vocal range seems to have extended downwards and she seems comfortable singing in that register. Her voice was always as powerful as her songs but this is something else.
Jara is about tradition, family, life choices and, indeed, heritage. The opening track, ‘Cork’, goes some way to explaining why she went off the radar for a while: “we float like cork on the water/now and again we disappear” – a pithy summary of a restless lifestyle. ‘Shells’ is about war refugees, told from the point of view of a young girl while ‘Language’ sets out a utopian vision of what her future might hold. “Our boundaries have been outgrown” is something we all hope for.
Fraggle Fletcher again provides support on electric guitar with Richard Molde Chester adding backing vocals to one track and Magnus Martin playing piano on another. Otherwise Jara is all Rhiannon’s own work with nine of the twelve tracks being her own compositions. Of the other three, ‘Soundtrack’ was co-written with Fletcher and contains the killer lines, “If this is the soundtrack to the life of me/Play it in a minor key”. We’ve all felt like that at times. ‘Burn The Wagon Down’, written by Dave Sudbury, explores the traditions of gypsy funerals and ‘Lowlands Away’ is the familiar traditional song, although not the way Rhiannon sings it; unaccompanied with multi-tracked backing vocals. Her delivery is drawling, almost insolent, until the end when she lightens up and is practically sweet for a line or two. I couldn’t help thinking that she was having a laugh at our expense.
It’s been a long wait but Jara is well worth it. I’d still like to hear the Brewers Daughter at my local folk club but I don’t think that the good people of G*******d are ready for her yet.
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/thebrewersdaughter/
There are no videos from the new album available yet but here’s an old one that just happens to be by Dave Sudbury: