After six McDermotts Two Hours albums (versus The Levellers or in their own right), singer-songwriter Nick Burbridge has joined forces with multi-instrumentalist and producer Tim Cotterell, to release the unplugged album of articulate contemporary songs rooted in the traditional Celtic idiom, which many have awaited for so long.
Gathered comes, simply, with a challenge. If any similar album tackles inner and outer struggles so artfully yet honestly, showing such respect for the tradition yet awareness of contemporary forms, then let this onebe rolled aside. If not, let it take its rightful place in the idiom where it belongs.
Gathered is a lyricists delight, as would be expected from a writer fluent in many forms: a profound and coherent expression of all kinds of implacable commitment, personal or political, related with a tender and unflinching hand. Here, Burbridges dark-humoured, melodic pieces, his genuinely weathered voice and singular guitar-playing, are augmented only by the subtle shade and impetus of Cotterells sensitive interpretation on a range of instruments. It is an album to sit down with late into the night and listen to repeatedly, which nonetheless abounds with fragments of jigs, reels and other tunes.
“Great melodies, acerbic, canny lyrics (fRoots)
The sound of a musician and songwriter at a creative peak (R2)
This is a fruitful partnership. Burbridges career spans decades, writing songs covered by artists from Levellers (a whole area at their Beautiful Days festival is named after his song Dirty Davey) to Damien Barber and Maggie Boyle, and published by Joe Boyd; niche poetry collections, fringe theatre plays and Radio 4 productions; a political thriller, and a non-fiction book on Northern Ireland launched at the House Of Commons.
A recurrent source of inspiration has been his work with McDermotts Two Hours, a band that cut the mustard(Q) and whose last album Goodbye To The Madhouse R2 called an epic collection that is essential listening. Cotterell, meanwhile, who both recorded and mixed this record, is one of the younger generation of Alt Folk specialists, a director of Brightons Access To Music, mainstay of Martha Tilstons The Woods, Legacy and Tricks Upon Travellers, session player for the Oysterbands John Jones,among many others, and a vital cog in the eccentric McDermotts machinery.
Dr Ben Burbridge Sussex University