Sometime member of Said The Maiden and The Company Of Players as well an an established solo artist, the Herefordshire- based folk singer-songwriter also happens to have a passion for football. She brings the two together here on this inspired concept that draws on the communal singing that characterises football ground and folk clubs alike.
Treading in the footsteps of Sharp and Grainger, she’s collated and reworked songs inspired by the terrace anthems as well as adding a couple of covers and an original. She kicks off with a brief bastardised snatch of ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ recorded at West Brom’s Hawthorns ground before launching into ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’, a sedate, folksy arrangement with fingerpicked guitar from Chris Cleverley, sung in a pure voice that rather belies her addition of the line about having the ass of crow and flying over your town to “shit on the bastards below”.
Opening with and interpolated by spoken reminiscences from Robert Rhead, John Reed and Aly Bart, the first cover is a lilting lullabying take on Billy Bragg’s ‘God’s Footballer’, a song in tribute to Wolves player Peter Knowles with Lukas Drinkwater on double bass. Things then move to Berkhampstead FC, where she played in a Saturday team in Bedmond, for the strumalong ‘Blaydon Races’ and on whose terraces she recorded the crowd singing along on the chorus refrain, amended.
Accompanying herself on piano, the second cover is Steve O’Donohghue’s ‘Accident Of Birth’, a song which starts out talking of his local football team and proceeds to become a song about tolerance. It’s back then to the scarf wavers for the American Civil War classic ‘John Brown’s Body’, featuring Emily Cooldrich on trumpet with military snare by Kayleigh Willmott and proceeding to incorporate lyrics from the song’s different variants.
Her own contribution comes with a strummed demo recording of ‘Cash Out’, a raw confessional about feelings of not measuring up that has a relationship bent, but, in talking of “when the season ends”, may or may not have been inspired by her performance on the pitch.
It ends with the refrain from ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’, which leads perfectly into the final track, ‘Show Me The Way Go To Go Home’. Opening with and featuring further vox pops, including a memory of Ozzy Osborne coming on to a Watford game at half time shortly after being burgled to chants of “who stole your valuables”, it’s a softly sung, fingerpicked treatment, name dropping Leeds United, Exeter and Millwall as well as Watford, as she sings about wanting to stay in the boozer after the game.
With the booklet featuring Lowry-like watercolour by her father and a photo of Minnie sporting her Watford shirt, it’s an unexpectedly endearing album regardless of whether you’re into football or not. Since this is Volume 1, it’s clearly planned to be a game of two halves and perhaps some extra time too. Definitely in the back of the net.
Artist’s website: www.minniebirch.co.uk
‘God’s Footballer’ – official video: