CHARLIE DORE – Milk Roulette (Black Ink Music BICD8)

Milk RouletteAlthough she never really attained the stardom predicted for her when she released ‘Pilot Of The Airwaves’ back in 1979, the Pinner-born singer’s not exactly done too badly for herself, sustaining a successful career over the years as an actress, producer and songwriter, as well as regularly releasing albums and performing live. This, her eighth album, is particularly personal, the title track referring to how, to test whether the milk had turned sour, her father would simply take a swig and approach he, an ever optimistic widower, apparently applied to the women in his life. As the title suggests, family loom large too in ‘Looking Like My Mother, Acting Like My Dad’, a song and arrangement that, especially in Dore’s husky quiver, feels very much of the 30s or 40s (possibly down to its homespun recording), while album closer, ‘Cradle Song’, brings together a transcription of a piano instrumental written by her mother as a young child and an old cassette recording of her father reading his poems.

Although ‘Three A Penny’, a three-part harmony unaccompanied (save for barely discernible keyboard) number about the culture of cheap downloading, and featuring O’Hooley & Tidow, clearly comes from the very heart of a working musician, elsewhere, personal resonances are more open to interpretation. Sketched out on sparse piano notes, opening number, ‘All These Things’, another pre-war sounding track with co-producer Julian Litman on Indian harmonium, is about the hopes and heartbreak of IVF, ‘Born Yesterday’ a love letter from a new mother to her young child and ‘Firewater’, a guitar rippling, viola accompanied song about falling for a handsome man with a brilliant mind who, unfortunately, also happens to be a career drunk.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, death makes an appearance, conceived as an unwanted salesman peddling his wares to her father and brother on the defiant ‘Stare You Down’ and, equally poignantly, at the core of ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Promoted’, a strings arrangement in which the euphemism of the title and recalling the passing of her mother when Dore was 15 rejects the idea of being taken to a better place in favour of staying on the shop floor a little longer.

The remaining number, the tumbling, chorus-catchy ‘Best Man For The Job’ featuring harmonium and Dobro with Reg Meuross and Jess Vincent guesting on vocals, recounts the ironically titled tale of a neglected wife warning husbands that if they don’t tend the garden then weeds and discontent may grow and lead others to cultivate it instead.

Often fuzzily warm, sometimes playful, sometimes touching, but always immensely listenable, you really should pour a couple of pints.

Mike Davies

Artist website: www.charliedore.com

I included this video because Guildford Vox is one of our local community choirs. That should be Anna Tabbush conducting but if it isn’t I’m sure she’ll tell me!

CHARLIE DORE – Cheapskate Lullabyes (Black Ink Music BICD6)

I suppose it must be at least 20 years since I saw a live performance (I believe it was The Hope & Anchor in Islington) by Charlie Dore. Things haven’t changed much in as much that I think she’s still one of this country’s finest singer/songwriters including previous hits “Pilot Of The Airwaves” and Jimmy Nail’s “Aint No Doubt”. Coming from a lady who is versed in the arts of both music and theatre her lyrics are wordy and enjoyable and, at the end of the day set out to ‘entertain’…if that’s not too dirty a word? If proof were needed then check out “A Man Walks Into A Bar” where the song makes you listen by bringing you in on the joke. This may not be a laugh out loud set-piece but by its very nature the title draws your attention to what lies beneath the headline.

A bit like a Derrin Brown inspired Saatchi & Saatchi subliminal advert these songs pack a powerful punch that will linger long after the last syllable has been uttered. It’s this engaging skill as a songwriter that will bring wry smiles and knowing nods to their subject matter including difficult step-children “Milk Teeth” and the infidelity inspired hot club jazz of “His Wife” that makes the listener feel like an investor in a magical ‘words factory’. A round of applause must also go to Dore’s sterling band of musicians including multi-instrumentalist Julian Littman (now also a member of Steeleye Span), Dudley Phillips (double bass) and strings maestro Jake Walker. This is the real deal for those that like their ‘folk’ roots with a little more edge.

PETE FYFE