BARNSTORMER 1649 – Restoration Tragedy (Roundhead Records CD9)

Restoration TragedyI must begin by apologising profusely to Attila The Stockbroker – this is his project – for not getting to this album rather soon than I have. However, as a new year treat it rates highly. Restoration Tragedy is a look at the latter part of the English revolution from a unique perspective. The sound is equally unique blending the recorders of Tim O’Tay and the variety of reeds played by Attila with the hard rock of Dave Cook on bass, drummer M M McGhee and guitarist Jason Pegg.

The album begins with ‘The Levellers’ Trilogy’ a medley of one of Attila’s tunes with Gerrard Winstanley’s ‘The Diggers’ Song’ and ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, thus setting the scene. ‘Wellingborough & Wigan’ are singled out as hosts of present day Diggers’ Festivals and then the story moves on to the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester and the escape of Charles II via Shoreham near Attila’s home town – the tragedy of the album’s title. He has no love for Cromwell either – “just a king in disguise” – but celebrates some of the larger than life characters of the period: Abiezer Coppe, Thomas Harrison, John Lilliburn and Winstanley, who crops up several times.

The story doesn’t stay in the past all the time. ‘The Man With The Beard’ is a warning against a modern-day cult of personality and that is followed by ‘Pride’s Purge’ drawing a comparison with the Rump Parliament and present day politics while ‘Robina’ makes a link between Attila’s wife and Cromwell’s sister who share a name. He refers to both himself and the Lord Protector as “driven, hot-headed and stubborn” with what feels like a wry smile.

The music ranges from the delicacy of ‘Cromwell’s Funeral’, a piano piece composed and played by Robina Baine, to the cacophony that ends ‘The Battle Of Worcester’ but it’s all nicely judged and balanced to keep the album flowing. You’ll get caught up and there is a danger that it will be over far too quickly.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.attilathestockbroker.com

‘The Levellers’ Trilogy’:

PETE McCLELLAND – Carolina Sky (Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1016)

Carolina SkyAlthough a co-founder of Hobgoblin Music and a member of several different folk bands, Pete McClelland has only just released an album in his own right. Inspired by nearly forty years of Stateside road trips soundtracked by country music, McClelland describes Carolina Sky as a “real and imagined journey across the USA”. Indeed, there are more than a few inescapable splashes of Americana throughout the album; from the cover image of the Blue Ridge Mountains (immortalised in the country genre for decades) to the American geography found throughout the songs – especially in key numbers, like the title track, and album opener ‘The Appalachian Way’.

Written in 2015, the song paints a picture of true friendship in the setting of the American South:“We’re driving down from Redway to Ashville, Leave the frozen Mississippi far behind /I’m gonna sit and smoke, have a couple of beers, I hope, And see my buddy Jerry bye and bye

Recorded in Sussex, England and Nashville, Tennessee, the sounds of country music absolutely drench the album and along with the aforementioned opener, there are a few other numbers which also stand out. ‘Walk This Road’ is particularly deserving of a mention, not only for McClelland’s lyrical celebration of his own family, but for the fact that this was the piece which got the ball rolling for McClelland as a songwriter. Perhaps the strongest number is the mandolin-laced ‘Carolina Sky’ and its picturesque lyrical content which makes one yearn to go back to Carolina…even if one has never been to Carolina in the first place. The honky-tonking, bluesy follow up, ‘Marie’ and ‘A Kind of Kindness’ (another one of McClelland’s earliest efforts) are worth a shout too. A new flavour is introduced in the album’s final track, ‘Marion’, through the Cajun accordion of Jason Pegg, and it’s a fitting to end the record; dedicated to McClelland’s wife, Mannie, his travelling companion for the coast to coast journeys which inspired Carolina Sky.

In the album’s notes, McClelland writes “I went to Nashville to see if anyone might cover my songs, never really planned to put this out there myself…” but with so much of the album written about friends, family or McClelland’s love of travelling, it feels only right that we should hear his stories and his songs in his own voice.

Christopher James Sheridan

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Artist’s website: www.petemcclelland.com