Releasing The Leaves is the second album from Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, aka Ninebarrow. Jon and Jay are from Dorset and the landscape and history of the county inform and inspire their songs and music.
The first track, for example, is inspired by a 13th century chapel near Worth Matravers. ‘The Pinner’ is the story of a woman who works all her life at the craft of pin-making hoping to make a perfect example. The legend tells that women would place trinkets, especially pins in the chapel while wishing for their heart’s desire. It takes the mind of a real songwriter to avoid the obvious tale of a woman who is cruelly misled or, alternatively, finds her true love in this manner. No, this lady wishes for perfection.
‘For A Time’ is a much more modern tale, that of Tyneham, the village commandeered by the government in preparation for the D-Day landings. Again Jon and Jay avoid the obvious and tell the story through the recollections of an old man – a former resident. ‘To The Stones’ is inspired by a long barrow near Abbotsbury and ‘Blood On The Hillside’ comes from observing a murder of crows and extrapolating the old nursery rhyme into something more sinister. The duo’s use of a reed organ emphasises the creepy story.
Amongst the original compositions are a number of traditional songs, each one memorable in its own way. ‘Lord Exmouth’ is a tale from the Napoleonic wars extolling the virtues of Admiral Pellew and sung in a heroically simple style. ‘Weave Her A Garland’ is from Folk Songs Of The Upper Thames, which necessitated the boys writing their own tune and ‘Back & Sides’ is the song of begging and ale given a charmingly rustic setting. ‘Three Ravens’ is well known but none the worse for that and ‘Dark Eyed Sailor’ is one of the great broken-token ballads and one with a happy ending – William doesn’t get handbagged for testing her like that.
A booklet of lyrics, song notes and photographs is free to download and is well worth doing – happily, Ninebarrow sent me a pukka printed version. You can enjoy this fine album without it but go on, spoil yourself.
Artists’ website: www.ninebarrow.co.uk
‘For A Time’ – live: