“This is a ghost story…” proclaims the cover of the lyric booklet. It is also a love story, or perhaps two love stories; I haven’t quite figured that out. It is also somewhere between a concept album and a folk-opera – two fairly unfashionable notions these days. Paul Mosley has assembled twelve supporting musicians to perform The Butcher – he himself is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist – and eight featured vocalists including Josienne Clarke. Paul wrote all the songs and music except for some interludes improvised by the band, so this is really an ensemble work.
The story begins with a young man standing by a lighthouse on an island who hears a call from the sea. He goes in search of the voice but fails and in his frustration extinguishes the light. He vows to keep the lighthouse dark and watches as someone else drowns off the island. I’m not giving too much away here; that is just the first two songs. Next we meet two of the chief protagonists: the star gazer sung by Jamie Lawson (the first signing to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label) and the scientist, possibly an archaeologist, sung by Esther Dee. I haven’t yet decided if the star gazer is an astrologer or an astronomer and I suspect that the dichotomy he presents is deliberate.
Now things get a bit weird as we meet the villain of the piece, The Butcher himself, an inhuman being who was the young man at the beginning of the story and now may be immortal. And now things get really strange…
It will take you a while to thread your way through the story, even with Paul’s explanatory notes, but the music is rich enough to carry you through the bits you don’t quite understand the first time round. The Red Meat Orchestra can be everything from a rock band to a full orchestra with brass, strings, woodwinds and a harp. And is there a happy ending to the tale? I’ll let you decide.
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The Butcher trailer video. Not totally helpful, perhaps.