RUTH NOTMAN & SAM KELLY – Changeable Heart (Pure PRCD52)

Changeable HeartRuth Notman burst onto the scene a dozen or so years ago with two very fine solo albums and then disappeared to successfully pursue a medical degree – not the usual career path. Sam Kelly – well, if you don’t know about Sam Kelly you’re probably reading the wrong page. It was Sam who initiated their meeting and the lovely Changeable Heart is the result. Producing, playing and sharing arranging credits is Damien O’Kane with Anthony Davis filling out the sound with synths and strings, Josh Clark on percussion and Ross Ainslie’s whistles but nothing is allowed to overpower the vocals.

The record opens with ‘Bold Fisherman’, not a favourite of mine simply because it can become a dirge but Ruth and Sam shorten the chorus and there isn’t a rallentando to be heard. Sam takes a lower register and blends perfectly with Ruth’s slightly breathy delivery. The title track is a Notman/Kelly composition, a rather affecting love song featuring some really nice keyboards that builds to a splendid climax. Then they change the mood. ‘The Cunning Cobbler’ is a cousin of ‘The Molecatcher’ involving a policeman’s truncheon and a broken chamber-pot.

‘Caw The Yowes’ and ‘My Lagan Love’ are sometimes fragile and sometimes rousing and between them is a song not often heard these days; ‘Sweet Lass Of Richmond Hill’. Here it’s a vignette reduced to a verse and a chorus – the omitted lines are almost certainly too high-faluting for modern tastes. Ruth takes up the piano accordion for her own song, ‘As You Find Your Way Home’ and then comes a song that I know nothing about. I’ve deduced that ‘Young Brian Of The Sussex Wold’ is probably about the 13th century Battle of Lewes but whence it comes I know not.

Finally we have two covers. Ruth leads off ‘School Days Over’ when you might anticipate Sam’s gruffer tones and she takes the “tougher” verse in Paul Brady’s ‘The Island’, nicely confounding expectations. Changeable Heart is an album that will be on many “best of” lists come the end of the year.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Changeable Heart’:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – All Along The Wall (Fellside Recordings FECD236)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – All Along The Wall (Fellside Recordings FECD236)Hadrian’s Wall for many conjures images of the Romans in Britain and to celebrate this iconic image, the Brampton Live festival commissioned this recording utilising a selection of some of the UK’s leading ‘folk’ singer-songwriters, poets and performers.

A quick check of the artists reveals a who’s who and will bring, I’m certain, a smile to anyone who considers themselves a fan of current ‘UK folk’ culture. Therefore we have the collective talents of Jez Lowe, Boo Hewerdine, Kate Fox, Elvis McGonagall, Ruth Notman, Rory McLeod, Julie Matthews and Kate Bramley. With a cohesive mix of stories, ballads and social commentaries the recording moves along at a fair pace and the sense of enjoyment that comes from a ‘live’ performance is conveyed to the listener by the artists enthusiasm in bringing this project successfully together.

Out of so many good tracks to choose from I’d say worthy of your attention are the haunting Lowe penned “Haltwhistle Women”, Notman’s “Lizzie Batey” and Hewerdine’s “The Wrong Side Of The Wall”. The recording, crisply engineered by Paul Adams aided and abetted by his son Richard must have proved a logistical nightmare but ultimately a rewarding experience. With twenty-three tracks to choose from this recording is a must purchase album and will stand proudly in the ‘various artists’ collection of any self-respecting ‘folk’ enthusiast. PETE FYFE

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