LINDA WATKINS – Butterfly In A Box (own label TAL0005)

Butterfly In A BoxI slipped Butterfly In A Box into the player for the first time and wondered why I hadn’t heard of Linda Watkins before. This is her fifth album after all and we’re supposed to have our finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist (or something like that) so you must allow me to wax enthusiastically for a while. Linda is supported principally by Nick Holland who also produced the album with guest appearances by Marion Fleetwood, Jerome Davies, Teri Bryant and Snake Davies who turns in a brilliant saxophone solo on ‘Coffee Blues’.

The album opens with the chugging rhythm of ‘Bunkers Hill’. There are several Bunkers Hills in the UK but, as you know, Bunker Hill was a battle in the revolutionary war and Linda somehow combines the two into a song about love and loss. In fact, most of Linda’s songwriting extracts a story from a simple idea so ‘In These Shoes’ begins with a reference to the shoemaking heritage of Northamptonshire – although from Wales originally, I believe that Linda lives in that part of the country now – and finishes with soldiers marching off to war.

‘Neptune’s Sons’ is a dramatic story of the lonely death of a shipwrecked sailor and her focus switches to a consideration of our political situation in ‘Turmoil’, something of a tour de force by Holland. It’s a theme which sort of leads into ‘Green Willow’ which examine the dichotomy of bringing your children up right while still encouraging them to make their own choices in life. I has a lovely lilting tune topped by Marion Fleetwood’s strings.

‘Tulancingo’ is a city in Mexico and the story of a woman going back there to have her baby is really an excuse for a poetical description of the history of the place. Appropriately Linda plays a vihuela, beloved of mariachi bands, on this track. Next comes the aforementioned ‘Coffee Blues’, a tale of a bad night to end all bad nights it would seem. ‘The Net’ considers our obsession with social media, another chugging bass and drums rhythm, and finally Linda solos on the comforting ‘Within These Walls’.

I admire Linda’s sophisticated songwriting and her voice, while clear and true, also betrays her life experience. A young girl couldn’t have made Butterfly In A Box and for some reason I kept thinking of Dory Previn as I listened. That’s a favourable comparison.

Dai Jeffries

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