The opening notes of Continuum are enough to make you sit up and take notice. This is Carol Fieldhouse’s second album and her long experience as a performer and songwriter shines through every note and the musicians supporting her: Boo Hewerdine, Neill McColl, John McCusker and Chris Pepper and Mohammadreza Behjat. The record began as a songwriting project on the subject of motherhood and, although those songs are here, the idea expanded as is often the way with these things.
Those opening notes, introducing ‘Beyond The Rising Tide’, are the responsibility of Chris Pepper’s harmonium and bass, later expanded by dulcitone, percussion and guitar and John McCusker’s fiddle and whistle. The song tells the story of two of the Wigtown Martyrs who were staked out to drown in the River Bladnoch in1685 – religion and politics came into it as they so often do and it’s a story worth looking up.
The first of the motherhood songs is ‘Laura’, Carol’s daughter who lived for a time in Finland and spent the endless nights sewing. It’s a charming song telling how Carol would search out fabrics to send her and is also Boo Hewerdine’s first contribution to the record on guitar, bass and backing vocals, giving power to the song’s essential simplicity. ‘Continuum’, written with Fiona Banks, tells of Fiona’s joy at the news that her daughter is pregnant, thus establishing the continuity of life. ‘Little Red Scarf’ was written with Carol’s daughter Hannah about her daughter – and so it goes.
‘Pale Sun’ takes us to Carol’s home in Derbyshire and a later turn in the story of motherhood as grown-up children leave home and ‘Aurora’ stays there, in Birchover to be precise, a simple tribute to the peace of the White Peak. In contrast, ‘Sulaymaniyah’ takes us to Iraq and features Mohammadreza Behjat’s santoor. ‘Woman Of The Land’ is for a former resident of Wirksworth – Carol’s sleeve notes tell her story. The final song of the motherhood project is ‘Daisies’ – a reminder to ring your mum regularly – that sounds as though it intends to be a well-known hymn tune but changes its mind. Finally, ‘The Message’ takes us into space and the golden disc attached to Voyager I as it continues its journey.
I didn’t know what to expect from Continuum but I was delighted by its honesty and simplicity. Carol’s star guests are used sparingly and their contributions are perfectly judged. Her songwriting is elegant and her voice manages to combine gentleness and strength – the core attributes of a mother, perhaps?
Artist’s website: http://www.carolfieldhousemusic.com/
‘The Message’ – live: