Songs For A Watchful World is a collaboration between Oxford-based lyricist Martin Beck and Jon Avison, frontman of The Moonbeams, joined by, among others, the latter’s fellow Yorkshiremen, Ben Avison, Sam Lawrence and Thom Paisley, they take their name from a shared loved of William Blake, Beulah, the Hebrew for married, being his realm of the subconscious, the source of the poetic imagination, while boneyard refers to the place where planes go to die, a metaphor for the grounding of lockdown.
Musically, it straddles folk and Americana, opening with the gently ambling ‘After The Storm’, sharing a melodic kinship with Ian Tyson’s ‘Someday Soon’, a rumination on summer romance that has faded away with the passing seasons but with the faith that a calm will follow. That sense of loss and time passing weaves throughout the album, the chirping of birds introducing the fingerpicked folk-blues ‘The Days’ which captures the stasis of lockdown (“you’ve got to strive for something when there’s nothing you can do”) and, set in the Yorkshire dales, again on the whistle and waltzing ‘The Ones That Got Away’, the wisdom of age reflecting on the restlessness of youth.
Underpinned by banjo, there’s a relaxed bluegrass meets music hall flavour to ‘Holding A Rose’, essentially a romantic peace offering following some sort of relationship bust-up that manages to squeeze in references that range from the story of Lot in Genesis and Andromeda in Greek mythology to Sherlock Holmes.
Coloured with harmonica, the slow, lazing rhythm of ‘The Old Campaign’ is again sepia grained with regret and memories, here, the recalling of a brief fling as Avison wistfully sings “if we never make contact, you know it was only a game”, mingling the notions of enduring a pandemic and surviving a war.
Heading into the final stretch, ‘I’ll Be Home’ is a midtempo rollalong number about love keeping promises and never losing hope, the flute-caressed ‘No Wonder’ (the birds back for a second session) another resigned number about the aftermath of a relationship (“I’m used to being alone”) but also about realising what we still have, and ‘Two Worlds’, a more slow Southern blues influenced track with resonator guitar and clopping percussion about trying to bridge a divide and find a compromise in a relationship between conflicting personalities (“you’re bold as brass, and I’m hard as nails”) but also a veiled social commentary on the gap between the haves and have nots.
It ends, Peter Richards on melancholic French horn and set to a sparse acoustic guitar, with the almost whisperingly sung ‘In The Time Of Snow’, its image of a silent world stood still equally a metaphor for the isolation of lockdown and a contemplative reflection of a time when “I got tangled in her hair”, and the need to come together to make it to the other side.
Another fine example of the artistic and musical creativity and collaboration that has emerged from the conditions enforced upon us, here’s hoping that, once the skies clear and life takes light once more, this marriage of circumstance doesn’t dissolve.
Artists’ website: www.beulahsboneyard.bandcamp.com
‘The Ones That Got Away’: