Paradoxically, Paul Hutchinson’s new album, Petrichor, is a much-travelled and international project involving musicians from Sweden, Belgium, the USA and Australia as well as a few Brits – not bad for a lockdown year. Now, I’m not going to explain who Paul is nor what petrichor actually means; you’re intelligent people and can look them up. Actually, if you don’t know already you’re probably on the wrong site – but I digress. However, I will add that this album brings together a number of old tunes that Paul has had stashed away.
The title track which opens the album is a 5/4 tune which Paul starts as a solo but which people join, notably arranger and fellow Maniac Seona Pritchard who comes with violin and viola and Swedish guitarist Roger Tallroth. Paul then shows admirable restraint by handing the second track, ‘Time For Change’, over to Swedish duo Väsen. The tune started as a summer school project (Paul is a very busy chap) but ‘The Nine Bar Gate’ featuring Allye Sinclair on cello is all Paul’s own work and is inspired by the escape attempts of his dog, Lily.
‘The Oregon Trail’ features the two American guests, Karen Axelrod on piano and Shira Kammen on violin topped off by the wonderful clarinet of Karen Wimhurst, another Maniac and Paul’s partner in the Pagoda Project. Paul is in there as well but the other three told him what to play. The first half of the next track, ‘Shapwick’ is taken over by wind quintet Sheepstealers (actually, they have a double bass player) for yet another sonic texture and Karen and Sheona pick up the second half, ‘Tipping Point’, decorating Paul’s accordion and Roger’s guitar.
‘Promised Land’ was inspired by Paul’s shock at seeing the armed guards and barbed wire at Calais when returning home from the Czech Republic. It begins with the rhythm of marching feet but slowly spirals out of control – Karen and Sheona once again. ‘To Naragonia’ introduces the Belgian button accordion duo of that name while ‘In The Adelaide Hills’ is another much travelled tune written after Paul met Allye Sinclair in a session there.
‘Cuckoo Lamb’ and ‘Supper Club De Keevil’ bring us back to England and what we might call her mid-west and finally everyone pitches in for ‘Minicab Road’, including producer Ed Bersey on drums. The title is an anagram of the name of an (in)famous politician – can you work out who it is?
Reading this back some of it seems unnecessarily flippant but that’s the mood that Petrichor puts me in. Paul and the musicians seem to have hit upon both the melancholy of our current situation and the gallows humour that it engenders at one and the same time and that’s very clever.
Artist’s website: www.paulhutchinsonmusic.co.uk
‘Supper Club De Keevil’ – official video: