Land Of Hope & Fury is a collection of contemporary protest songs – a compilation inspired by the realisation on May 8th 2015 of the enormity of what the British people had done. Not just the greedy and the fascists but also those too pusillanimous to stand up for what they actually believe in. We can thank Stevie and Jamie Freeman for the work that went into putting it together.
The album opens quietly with Luke Jackson’s ‘Forgotten Voices’, the story of an old soldier left on the scrapheap feeling that his voice counts for nothing. It may be better to protest by whispering in someone’s ear than screaming in their face and even Mark Chadwick is quite restrained but I kept having the feeling that what the record needed was one really good rant. Moulettes’ ‘Lullaby’ is a lovely song but it’s somewhat opaque in this context. ‘The Hum’, from O’Hooley & Tidow’s third album takes a positive line, one that’s on the side of working people. OK, it sticks it to the aspirational middle class but that’s almost incidental.
Lucy Ward’s ‘Bigger Than That’ is a real killer track – still quiet but with uncompromising lyrics and ‘Filthy Lucre’ by The Mountain Firework Company does the same to the sound of a hillbilly banjo. There are excellent songs from Phil Jones, Will Varley and Chris T-T and Plumhall’s ‘Never Forget My Name’ serves as a warning to the slavers and taskmasters and Grace Petrie’s ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ acts as a rallying cry.
So, this is a really good collection of songs for our troubled times but, you know what, it still needs one really good rant.
“We woke up on May 8th to election results that left tens of millions of people feeling disenfranchised and without a voice. Rather than wait quietly for another five years before we got to have our say, we decided to return to the proud musical tradition of the protest song. Our votes might have counted for nothing, but we could still make our voices heard.
We contacted our many friends in the roots music world and asked them to contribute something to a compilation of contemporary protest songs, and the results were an incredibly diverse range of musical, emotional and political styles. Land Of Hope & Fury was born. Sixteen artists in total donated songs with nine of them written specifically for the album. This coming together of people, all acting out of simple desire to make the world a better place, has been the single most encouraging aspect of this project, It is the proof that Margaret Thatcher’s suggestion that “there’s no such thing as society” is as wrong today as ever it was.
We didn’t want to profit financially from the album, so we looked for a suitable beneficiary that was aligned with our frustrations, but not bound to one set of policies. Politics had let us down, so a campaigning group from outside of the political system seemed like a good choice.We felt 38 Degrees’ mix of online petitioning and real-world actions was just right for Land Of Hope And Fury, and they were delighted to take part. We couldn’t be happier to have them alongside us.”
Jamie’s brother Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office, Sherlock) made a video supporting the Labour Party, so his family are no stranger to politics.
Luke Jackson – Forgotten Voices
Mark Chadwick (Levellers) – No Change
Emily Barker – Doing The Best I can
Moulettes – Lullaby
Lucy Ward – Bigger Than That
The Jamie Freeman Agreement – Homes for Heroes
The Self Help Group – Funeral Drum
The Dreaming Spires – Follow The Money
Mountain Firework Company – Filthy Lucre
Phil Jones (Hatful Of Rain) – New Homes
O’Hooley & Tidow – The Hum
Will Varley – The Sound Of The Markets Crashing
Chris TT – A-Z
Plumhall – Never Forget My Name
Grace Petrie – If There’s a Fire In Your Heart
Danni Nicholls – A Little Redemption
Mark Chadwick’s second solo album won’t disappoint fans but it may surprise one or two. It’s simple, direct and confessional and I enjoyed it from the off.
The sound is pared-down a little, based on acoustic guitar with Tom White’s piano and Ben Paley’s fiddle over the engine room of Graeme Ross and Alex White on double bass and drums. At first hearing I thought that ‘Christian And Pam’ was the key song. It’s the story of two, what shall we say, less privileged members of our society in a long-standing but rickety relationship that you just know isn’t going to end well. The last verse describes Christian being taken away in an ambulance covered in blood ‘the way Pam knew he would’. Mark describes the album as “an honest look at drink, life and love”. Nowhere will you read that he is an alcoholic but his relationship with the booze is a troubled one. ‘Waterfall’ is almost a song of praise for the drink, albeit a bitter one – ‘drinking makes the man, watch him crawl, watch him crawl’ – while ‘Bullet’ and ‘Killing Time’ are stories seemingly seen through a haze – you can put your own interpretation on them and I’m still working on mine.
‘Air’ is musically the most complex song with piano and fiddle heading into jazz territory while the closing ‘Last Night’ relates the insomniac’s early morning reflections on the night before. Some of these words are set to good, stomping tunes and I can hear the choruses of ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Bullet’ ringing out across a festival field from voices that haven’t fully understood what it is they’re singing. The duality of the music is reflected in the cover but that’s as much an illustration of the duality of human nature, particularly when the demons are released.
Not only is this a good album to listen to on the superficial level – you’ll find yourself singing along – but it also makes some difficult points in a readily accessible way.
Levellers have just released the latest instalment of their project to record a video for every track from their recently released album, Static On The Airwaves.
Mutiny tells the story of the 1917 Étaples Mutiny by British troops in France during the First World War, and in particular that of its exectuted ‘leader’ Corporal Jesse Robert Short. The video was produced by Rich Mulryne and Emma Birchett
The long-awaited album from Belfast born singer/songwriter Dan Donnelly is upon us, after a fabulous taster of an EP released a while before his full album to keep his legion of fans happy! Dan has toured extensive with the Levellers, The Oysterband, supported Seth Lakeman on his tours on more than one occasion and has been delighting the British public after moving back here from the States almost 2 years ago. He has appeared at various Festivals including Beautiful Days, the Big Session and a regular at Glastonbury.
Dan writes his songs from the heart and from experience. This album is no exception and has a raw quality that extends itself to whoever hears it. Kicking off the album I was expecting doom and gloom, but as he is now ‘in lurve’ the lovely lady is question as the first song ‘Your Loving Arms’ happy (yes happy) song! The second track leads into his bit of bad experience and a kind of biography of the last couple of years. Track 4 is a tribute and dedicated ‘In Loving Memory’ to his late friend Paddy McNicholl who sadly died last year. He believed in Dan tirelessly. Running – Track 5 was selected as a single and is a favourite of most people I know who are Dan fans. Eleven tracks finishing off with Plastic Jesus which has everyone bopping and singing along when at a Festival or venue.
His live performance is a work of art, with his loop foot pedals, skill and talent; he deserves to be up there with the rest. A really nice guy who loves to talk to people about music, Dan has taught at Exeter’s Academy of Music and knows his craft inside out. There isn’t much about the music business Dan doesn’t know. With tracks that have been recorded by Sean Lakeman and Phil Johnstone (ex Robert Plant band) and with a who’s who in folk on the album such as Leveller Mark Chadwick and Ben Paley on fiddle, this album is a work of art. Buy this album, and catch him live – and you won’t be disappointed. You can purchase the album below or from Dan personally if you are at one of his gigs.
Folking.com’s Paul Johnson in conversation with Mark Chadwick (lead singer of the Levellers) at Beautiful Days Festival in August 2010. Mark talks about the festival and his new solo album project “All the Pieces”. For those not in the know, Mark is one of the UK’s most successful song-writers and has co-written 20 chart singles and 6 top 40 albums (including a number 1). “All the Pieces” is not a Levellers (the band he has fronted for the last 20 years) album but in my opinion each of the 12 autobiographical acoustic folk-pop songs have an early Levellers “wood smoke” spirit to them and hark back to an earlier late sixties/ early Seventies age. The album was produced by the award-winning Sean Lakeman and Mark is joined by a surprise all-star folk cast (which I won’t give away now as you hear about it in the interview below).