CORRIE SHELLEY – The Leaf And The Cane (Own Label CSSSMCD002)

The Leaf And The CaneYou know how it is, you spend 30 years busy doing other life stuff away from music, then seemingly effortlessly drop two self-composed albums within the space of a year. Corrie Shelley certainly knows how that goes, since her second album The Leaf And The Cane hit the shops late last year.

Much like her debut, Painted Memories, this latest work skips nimbly among the folk/rock borderlands. Although only the final two tracks – both collaborative compositions and performances – definitively stray into rockier territory. Both ‘Storm Coming’ and ‘Pale Maiden II’ break with the more intimate mood of the preceding songs whilst showing Shelley perfectly at home in a larger band setting. ‘Pale Maiden II’, for instance, commemorates those who fought in the Falklands War, as seen from the viewpoint of the islands’ national flower.

These tracks aside, the instrumentation generally tends towards subtly enhancing her vocal delivery. There’s some lovely harmonica over the shuffling ‘Sweet Revenge’, particularly the final shimmer. ‘Wild Wind’ which works surprisingly well delivered way down in Corrie’s vocal range, is suffused with a militaristic percussion and Jon Brindley’s melancholy fiddle.

If revisiting a teenage exam piece (‘Love Is Blind’) could seem like a risky move, Corrie’s reworking means that it does manage to deliver, whilst also suggesting that it must have been a fairly mature song originally.

Her voice is warm, rounded and touched with her Lancashire accent. There’s a strong focus on narrative and storytelling, as well as a delightful way with melody. Her a capella song, ‘Jonny’ about the devastation to one family of a mining disaster, is particularly good. To this displaced Lancastrian, there’s something rather comforting and homely about her sound, a Proustian connection with folk music from childhood days.

A nice touch was the little envelope of teabag and sugar sachet – representing the titular ‘leaf’ and ‘cane’, symbols both of global exploration and imperial domination and simple daily comforts – that came with the review copy. The drink that fuelled the writing of these songs (as well as this review) also forms the common thread between them. It’s easy to picture Corrie, warm mug in hand as her inspiration roves from tales of 17th century piracy on ‘Whydah’ via historical fiction (‘Sir William And The Father’) to more modern themes and viewpoints.

So, go on, join in. Put the kettle on, make a brew and settle in for a jolly good listen to this very accessible album.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: http://www.corrieshelley.com

‘Whydah’ – live:

PETE MORTON – The Land Of Time (Fellside FECD269)

PETE MORTON The Land Of Time I may have asked this question before but why isn’t Pete Morton a huge star? He’s a fine singer with an engaging stage presence and, more importantly, he’s a writer of superb songs, ten of which are to be found within this rather unassuming sleeve. So why isn’t his name on everyone’s lips?

The opening track, ‘The Herefordshire Pilgrim’ takes the style of William Langland’s Piers Ploughman to a logical, if rather over the top, conclusion. It reminds me also of Belloc’s The Four Men and, oddly, Bob Dylan’s ‘Dignity’. It’s a complex song, full of words and ideas and I really feel the need of the lyrics which aren’t included. There are a couple of fraps here. The first is ‘Poverty Frap’ which uses the chorus of ‘Poverty Knock’ to link thoughts on sweatshop workers in Bangladesh and the original Lancashire mill workers. The second employs the chorus of ‘The Rigs Of London Town’ to consider the plight of trafficked sex-workers in ‘Slave To The Game’.

‘One Hundred Years Ago’ is the story of Pete’s grandfather who was wounded and captured in the Great War before eventually being repatriated. It’s a rather jolly song but the point being made is that without the enemy the wounded soldier would have died and Pete wouldn’t be around to tell the story to his children. I think that’s a cause for celebration, don’t you? Another standout track, mixing history and modern concerns is ‘Old Boston Town’, an attack on the arms trade and, finally, ‘Oh What Little Lives We Lead’ puts everything into perspective.

Pete is supported by his regular cohorts plus Ciaran Algar who adds some gorgeously simple fiddle to ‘The Herefordshire Pilgrim’. Jon Brindley plays (presumably) the clever guitar bits while Pete is singing and Chris Parkinson provides various free reeds and piano. On paper it seems very simple but it works so well.

The Land Of Time is another superb album from Pete Morton – now get out there and make him the star he should be.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: http://www.petemorton.com/

There’s nothing from this album on video yet, so here’s an old concert/interview sequence:

PETE MORTON – The Frappin’ And Ramblin’ Pete Morton (Fellside FECD261)

FandRPeteMortonWe don’t hear anywhere near enough of Pete Morton here in the south. It’s as though Yorkshire knows when it has a good thing and won’t let him escape although if this set is any guide he’ll be the last man to be seduced by the bright lights and the good life.

The record opens with ‘Farmer’s Boy Frap’. I thought at first that “frap” might be a cross between rap and frappuccino® as the subject is mainly milk and how farmers are exploited by supermarkets and big business in general – a contrast between those who can do and those who can only sell. Actually frap = folk rap: a tumble of contemporary words linked to a traditional, or semi-traditional, theme and chorus. Possibly the best is ‘The Manchester Rambler Frap’, hence my careful distinction.

This is very much a political album. Pete sets out his manifesto in ‘The Journeyman’ – his description of himself – beginning with the re-nationalisation of the railways and he surveys the heroes of the underdogs in ‘Rambling Through Old England’ name-checking Wat Tyler, George Fox and Titus Salt. ‘Corporatocracy’ predicts Sonmi-451’s world in Cloud Atlas and that isn’t so far away. For light relief we have ‘The Love Of You’ and ‘Bedside Song’ – Pete has always had a romantic streak – but it’s the other songs that matter here. Or is it? Without humanity the corporatocracy will become all-powerful.

Pete is accompanied by Maggie Boyle, Chris Parkinson, Jon Brindley and James Budden with Linda Adams adding chorus vocals. Fine musicians all, doing exactly what is needed to carry the songs and their complex lyrics while Pete himself balances on a torrent of words. This is an excellent record.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.petemorton.com

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